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11 places near Las Vegas to explore

By Kyla Pearce / updated 7.2021 - Jennie Guiling
July 7, 2020
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Las Vegas is surrounded by beautiful outdoor areas to explore just a few hours away.

Remember, rules and regulations are frequently changing as the COVID-19 restrictions change. 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. As of July 2020 the park is operating as normal.  If you are looking to hike be sure to check their website of Facebook page for updates - some of the trails close due to the extreme heat.  You can always see the beautiful scenery by driving thru the park.

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 posts a weekly update to advise of any closures.  As of this update (July 2021) SMVG Visitor Center and Group Picnic Areas are still closed.  At this time hiking trails and most recreation areas are open.

4.) Lake Mead

As America’s first and largest national recreation area, Lake Mead has opportunities to recreate 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.

As of July 2021 To help keep visitors safe, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is instituting seasonal closures to some areas and trails from May 15 to September 30, 2021. The temporary closures are in response to serious safety concerns related to summer heat effects to visitors. 

The closed areas are remote with little or no shade and the closed trails have sections of strenuous hiking with some requiring bouldering and climbing. Closures in the park effective on May 15, 2021 are:
• Goldstrike Canyon
• White Rock Canyon and White Rock Canyon Trail
• Arizona Hot Springs and the Arizona Hot Springs Trail
• Liberty Arch Trail

During the closure, visitors can still access the hot springs near White Rock Canyon that are accessible from the Colorado River. The River Mountains Loop Trail and Historic Railroad Trail are remaining open.

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, as of July 2021, Hole-In-The-Wall Information Center, All Trails, Most Restrooms, All Roads, Mid Hills Campground, Hole-In-The-Wall Campground all all open, The Kelso Depot Visitor Center is currently closed due to major mechanical failure of the climate control systems. Reopening anticipated in 2022 or 2023. Limited visitor services are Available at Hole-In-The-Wall Information Center

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.

As of July 2021 Zion National Park is fully open and Zion Canyon and Springdale Shuttles are in Operation. Free daily shuttle service is running in Zion National Park and Springdale from March through December 2021. Face masks must be worn on all shuttle buses. Several trails are closed due to large rockfall so be sure to visit their website for updates.

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

9.) Nelson, Nevada

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.

For mine tours face masks are mandatory if you have not been fully vaccinated as of July 2021.

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 Korn Creek Visitor Center remains closed as of July 2021.

11.) Laughlin, Nevada

A 90-minute drive south of Las Vegas will take you to Laughlin, Nevada, a gateway to explore the Colorado River. You can enjoy boating, water skiing, jet skiing, or swimming in the fresh water. For those that have their own boat, there are plenty of launch ramps. For those that don't, there are plenty of places to rent one.


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

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California's 10 best hiking trails

Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions due to COVID-19 or the California wildfires before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Rubicon Trail A hugely scenic trail on Lake Tahoe's western shore. It ribbons along the lakeshore for 4.5 mostly gentle miles from Vikingsholm Castle (add a mile for the downhill walk to the castle from Hwy 89) in Emerald Bay State Park, then leads past small coves perfect for taking a cooling dip, and treats you to great views along the way. Add an extra mile to loop around and visit the restored historic lighthouse, a square wood-enclosed beacon (that looks a lot like an outhouse) constructed by the Coast Guard in 1916. Poised above 6800ft, it’s the USA’s highest-elevation lighthouse. Mist Fall Hike This very enjoyable 8-mile, round-trip walk along the riverside, up a natural granite staircase and finishing at the falls, which (when the wind is right) blows refreshing water droplets at hikers on arrival, highlights the beauty of Kings Canyon. The first 2 miles are fairly exposed, so start early to avoid the midday heat on the 700ft ascent. Continuing past Mist Falls, the trail eventually connects with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail to form the 42-mile Rae Lakes Loop, the most popular long-distance hike in Kings Canyon National Park (a wilderness permit is required). The Coastal Trail in San Francisco is a beautiful 4-mile hike © Chris LaBasco / Getty Images / iStockphoto Coastal Trail Hit your stride on this 10.5-mile stretch, starting at Fort Funston, crossing 4 miles of sandy Ocean Beach and wrapping around the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. Casual strollers can pick up the restored trail near Sutro Baths and head around the Lands End bluffs for end-of-the-world views and glimpses of shipwrecks at low tide. At Lincoln Park, duck into the Legion of Honor or descend the gloriously tiled Lincoln Park Steps (near 32nd Ave). High Sierra Trail A contender for the best trail in Sequoia National Park – it's definitely on many world's best hike lists – the High Sierra trail begins at Crescent Meadow and continues for 49 miles. From 6700ft it climbs to an altitude of 10,700ft, crossing ridges, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and offering the most jaw-dropping mountain and valley views. It also connects to junctions for the famous John Muir Trail. If you can only make one stop in Tuolumne, visit Cathedral Lake © AdonisVillanueva / Getty Images Cathedral Lakes If you can only manage one hike in Tuolumne, this should probably be it. Cathedral Lake (9588ft), the lower of the two Cathedral Lakes, sits within a mind-blowing glacial cirque, a perfect amphitheater of granite capped by the iconic spire of nearby Cathedral Peak (10,911ft). From the lake’s southwestern side, the granite drops steeply away, affording views as far as Tenaya Lake, whose blue waters shimmer in the distance. Parking for the Cathedral Lake Trailhead is along the shoulder of Tioga Rd. Due to the popularity of this hike, parking spaces fill up fast, so arrive early or take the free shuttle. Santa Monica Mountains A haven for hikers, trekkers and mountain bikers, the northwestern-most stretch of the Santa Monica Mountains is where nature gets bigger and wilder, with jaw-dropping red-rock canyons, and granite outcrops with sublime sea views. The best trails are in Pacific Palisades, Topanga and Malibu. The Backbone Trail is the longest trail in the range, linking – and accessible from – every state park. It’s 67 miles all told, running from Will Rogers to Point Mugu State Park, and can be completed in a few days. Take in all the coastal views at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve © Debbie Allen Powell / Getty Images Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Walkers and hikers explore eight miles of hillside sandy trails in a wilderness oasis of 2000 acres. Choose from routes of varying difficulties in this well-trodden coastal state park in La Jolla. The 0.7-mile Guy Fleming Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) has panoramic sea views and paths through wildflowers, ferns and cacti. Meanwhile, the 1.4-mile Razor Point Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) offers a good whale-spotting lookout during winter months. Flora and fauna is abundant in this protected area. During quieter times, with fewer stomping feet, quiet walkers may spot raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, skunks and foxes among plenty of other types of wildlife. You'll have to pay for parking. Tahquitz Canyon Considered historic and sacred by the Agua Caliente people, this gorgeous canyon, located in the Greater Palm Springs, can be explored via a fairly steep and rocky 1.8-mile (round-trip) hike culminating at a 60ft waterfall. An interpretive trail guide that's available at the visitor center points out rock art, viewpoints and native plant life. The center also has natural- and cultural-history exhibits and screenings of The Legend of Tahquitz video about an evil Cahuilla shaman. Bring a picnic, water and be sure to wear sturdy footwear. If you don't want to head out on your own, join a ranger-led 2½-hour hike departing four times daily (once daily July to September) from the visitor center. Don't let the name fool you, the Boy Scout Trail is a tough 8-mile one-way route © NatalieJean / Shutterstock Boy Scout Trail For an immersion into Joshua Tree flora and topography, embark on this tough 8-mile one-way trail cutting through canyons, washes and mountains along the western edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. Most hikers prefer to launch from Park Blvd near the Quail Springs picnic area and head north to Indian Cove. Arrange for pick-up at the other end or plan on camping overnight. Part of the trail is unmarked and hard to follow. Rings Loop Trail This fun 1.5-mile trail delivers close-ups of the Swiss-cheese-like cliffs of the Hole-in-the-Wall area at the Mojave National Preserve. Starting at the south end of the parking lot, it passes petroglyphs before entering an increasingly narrow canyon that you have to scramble out of using metal rings. You'll emerge at a picnic area and follow a paved road back to the parking lot. For a shorter experience (0.5 miles), use the rings to descend straight into the canyon and climb back out the same way. This piece orginally appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.

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Budget Travel readers' 2020 bucket list

©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America. ©John Woodworth/Getty Images Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget). ©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images New York, New York, the city of lights. ©mtnmichelle/Getty Images Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020! ©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images Who among us wouldn't want a trip to Hawaii? ©pics721/Shutterstock Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Charleston, South Carolina, is a great place for a long weekend. ©CPQ/Shutterstock Witness the thunderous natural power of Niagara Falls. ©Micha Weber/Shutterstock New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party. ©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images San Juan in Puerto Rico is an explosion of color! ©cdrin/Shutterstock Seattle, Washington, has great weather and mountain views! ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet Sedona, Arizona, might be a center of mysterious spiritual vortexes. ©lightphoto/Getty Images The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!

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Manhattan’s top 7 dive bars for cheap drinks

Across Manhattan, bars prevail. The Mayor’s Office counts at least 13,000 nightlife establishments in the borough, with still more new liquor licenses issued every week. But among the island’s posh lounges and trendy speakeasies charging $25 per cocktail, there remain a cherished handful of classic New York City dive bars. These are the haunts that have survived the decades with their own kind of style: mismatched furniture, extended happy hours, charmingly surly bartenders, and wooden bars worn down from a billion wipedowns. You won’t find leather-bound mixology menus on this extreme shortlist. Just cheap drinks in dives from downtown to Midtown, each one serving up its own unique character. 1. Jeremy’s Ale House Few bars outside the French Quarter can claim such sentimentality about Styrofoam cups, but those 32-ounce draft beers never tasted so good – or so cheap (just $6.50 to $10.50 for a nice selection). Since 1973, Jeremy’s has watered down locals and workers around the South Street Seaport, who pack around its many ale-house tables for drinks and bar grub, starting as early as 8 am on weekdays. Nobody really knows why there are bras hanging from the ceiling, but it shouldn’t deter you. Because really, Jeremy’s draws an uncommon mix of Wall Streeters, construction workers, and true-blue New Yorkers – all of whom share the common interest of drinking cheaply in the familiar ambience of a simple, fun neighborhood joint. 2. 169 Bar Slinging drinks since 1916, this Lower East Side barroom is a bonanza of old-Manhattan originality. The colorful sign over the door shows a multicolored martini tipping over, perhaps a harbinger of what’s ahead at 169, home of the pickle martini. Inside, it feels like anything can happen, from pool on a leopard-print table to soul and funk grooves under the disco ball, to tasting an array of oysters and seafood. But you’re in the right place if you just want to drink on a budget, with happy hour prices from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm daily. Bonus: At 169 Bar, you can text in your drink order for speedy service. 3. Milano’s In the middle of Nolita’s high-priced cocktail scene is this affordable oasis. Milano’s has served up boozy standards since 1880, and now stands alone on a stretch of E. Houston Street as a staple dive for shot-and-beer specials (usually $5) and 5-8 pm daily happy hours. The long, narrow bar is perfect for both drowning sorrows or laughing with pals, either activity accentuated by the jukebox and crazy décor. 4. Doc Holliday’s If you like your dive with attitude, Doc Holliday’s honkytonk is your joint. Occupying a prime spot on Avenue A at E. 9th Street, Doc’s often sports a sign out front discouraging moneyed/entitled types from whisking in for its cheap, potent pours. Expect friendly bartenders and a boozy crowd, many of whom arrive early for the 5-8 pm weekday happy hours, then stay for the pool table and rollicking jukebox. 5. Trailer Park Lounge This dive is a little different, because its kitsch, like its drinks, are so strong. But for New Yorkers who want a little trailer-park flair in their firewater fun, hitch up to this Chelsea bar. Happy hours of $3 beers (including rarely-seen-in-NYC Shaefer cans) and $5 margaritas beckon daily from 4 to 6 pm. You can balance the booze with tater tots, sloppy joes, moon pies, and other down-home delights. It all suits this setting of Naugahyde furnishings and dazzling memorabilia that seem left behind from too many trailer-park yard sales. 6. Jimmy’s Corner The dive-bar desert of Times Square still has a glorious winner in Jimmy’s Corner. Parked in the middle of W. 44th Street (just east of Broadway), this boxing-shrine bar was opened by former prizefighter Jimmy Glenn in 1971. It’s going strong today, thanks to devotees who pack into the slim front bar and back tables for strong pours by no-nonsense bartenders. There’s no happy hour, but on the bright side, drinks are wildly inexpensive (e.g. $3.50 for a vodka-tonic), and the bar is open from 10 am to 4 am daily. 7. Rudy’s Bar & Grill There’s something lovable about a dive that’s survived condo culture despite its duct-taped seating. That’s Rudy’s, the self-proclaimed “historic dive bar in NYC” marked by a giant pink pig statue. This Hell’s Kitchen tavern opened in 1933 at the sunset of Prohibition. Today, most locals who love Rudy’s rely on its free hot dogs, if not for genuine sustenance, then to help them curb the drunkenness delivered from $12 pitchers. But this bar is lovable any way you want to drink it, from affordable top-shelf tipples to $4 shots (no happy hour need).

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