Las Vegas Nature Tips

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Are there any gardens I can tour while I visit Las Vegas?

UNLV Desert Landscape Gardens

These gardens offer a wonderful little slice of nature right in the middle of bustling Las Vegas. The gardens include species native to the area, an arboretum and walking paths. They really show what kind of plants will do well in the area, especially with little water. Since water is in short supply in Vegas, they are an inspiration to local gardeners. The gardens are a part of the UNLV campus. Simply take Flamingo to Paradise and turn right. Follow Paradise to the main entrance of UNLV. The gardens are located between the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History building and the John S. Wright Hall Buildings. Call 702-895-3392 for more information.

Is the Hoover Dam tour really worth the drive?

Hoover Dam

If you visit Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is a must see while you're there. It's only 30 miles east of Vegas on the Boulder Highway, and tours of the Museum are free, and they're fascinating! The deco design of the dam (don't you love those gargoyles that greet you on the facade?) is carried on throughout the entry way and offices, and it brings back memories of the 1930s when the dam was built. It's architecture of a bygone era and it's amazing that so much style and substance went in to such a huge structure. You can also take a tour that takes you down in an elevator into the very bowels of the dam. You'll see the turbine room where hydroelectric power is created. Parking is $5 * Tour Admission: Adults (Ages 17-61) $10.00 * Seniors (62+) $8.00 * Juniors (Ages 7-16) $5.00 * U.S. Military and Dependents (Adults & Seniors) $8.00 * Children (Ages 0-6) Free. The dam is open 9:00am to 6:00pm.

Where is the Valley of Fire?

Valley of Fire

This pristine spot is located about 50 miles north of Las Vegas off Highway 15. These stunning sandstone shapes and spires are so very illustrative of the desert Southwest that visitors may feel as if they've viewed this scenery somewhere before. Valley of Fire is a great location for hiking, rock climbing, and simply remarking on the scenery. A hike for everyone is Mouse's Tank is an easy quarter-mile hike from the main road. The tank is really a natural bowl in the rocks where water collects after a rainfall. A longer, but still easy three-mile hike is the one through Fire Canyon. You can spend a few hours at Valley of Fire, or all day, but no matter how long you spend there, chances are you won't forget the scenery anytime soon. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and the Visitors Center is open daily, 8:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $5 per vehicle.

Where can I see some of the more rare and unknown wildlife in the Southern Nevada area?

Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge

The Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge is about 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and only three miles from the town of Pahrump. This is a free park, and the kids will really enjoy the chance to see Nevada wildlife up close and personal. In fact, scientists have discovered at least 24 different plants and animals here that live nowhere else on Earth. One of the most famous examples is the endangered pupfish, a tiny fish who still lives in some of the small pools in the area, and existed as long ago as when mastodons roamed the area. This is an area to really explore, and the nature trails, interpretive information and picnic areas all make you want to relax and slow down. The park is open every day from sunup to sundown. There is a Visitor Center, but it is sometimes closed due to lack of staff.

I've heard of Spring Mountain Ranch, but just where is it?

Spring Mountain Ranch

Spring Mountain Ranch is a state park located inside Red Rock Canyon state park. The Ranch was once a working ranch and then a resort. The main ranch house is still in great condition, and you can take a tour of the building on most days the park is open. There are also several historical outbuildings, like a blacksmith shop and a barn to explore. There's also a picnic area, trails, and of course, Red Rock Canyon right next door. The picnic area is open daily 8am to 4:30pm and the main ranch house is open daily 10am to 4pm.

Is there a place to hike that's not too far from Vegas action?

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is only 13 miles west of Las Vegas, and yet it seems a world away. This beautiful spot is a favorite location for picnics, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and generally getting back to nature. There are literally miles of hiking trails from super easy to difficult, and you can even hike around the 13-mile scenic loop if you want to leave your car behind. Visit the rangers at the Visitors Center when you enter the park to find out hiking conditions and the best hikes for your condition. The park is open daily, 6am to 8pm, and there's a campground there, too. The visitors center is open daily, 8am to 4:30pm. Admission is $5 per car, $2 for motorcyclists and tour bus riders, and free for bicyclists and hikers who park at the loop entrance. Call 702 515-5350 to find out more.

Wait! Vegas is a desert, how can there be wetlands to visit there?

Clark County Wetlands Park

Vegas locals voted this the best place to spot wildlife in the area, and it's easy to see why. Dozens of different species call the park home, from beavers to birds and beyond. There are also many miles of paved and graveled trails in the park. It really is a beautiful spot, with the Rainbow Mountains forming a vivid backdrop to the ponds and trails of the wetlands. County school children visit the park on field trips from October through April, so if you're planning a visit during that time, call ahead to make sure the park is accessible. The park is located at the end of East Tropicana just north of the Silver Bowl. It's open dawn to dusk every day, and the Information Center is open 7 days a week 9:00 to 3:00pm. For more information call 702-455-7522.

What is there to do at Lake Mead?

Lake Mead

Lake Mead is about 35 miles east of Las Vegas, and it's a world away when it comes to relaxation and recreation. Just about any boating activity is available here, from jet skis, kayaking, and houseboating, to water skiing, fishing, and just enjoying the views. Lake Mead is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, and it was created when Hoover Dam was completed - damming the turbulent Colorado River. Around the lake you'll find campgrounds, resorts, boat rentals, beaches, and plenty of activities for the entire family. The Recreation Area is open 24 hours every day, and entrance into the Park is $5 per vehicle. The Visitor Center, located about 4 miles east of Boulder City on the Boulder Highway is open 8:30am to 4:30pm every day. For more information call 702-293-8990.

Where can I cool off when Vegas is just too darned hot?

Mt. Charleston

Mount Charleston, about 30 minutes northwest of Las Vegas, is a winter sports paradise with skiing and snowboarding. But in the summertime it's a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, too. At 12,000 feet, it's also a great place to cool off when the Vegas heat gets to be too much. You'll find seven campgrounds in the area, and hiking trails for all abilities, from paved trails that can accommodate the disabled to the most rigorous trails. There are several picnic areas scattered around the park area, too. The campgrounds are all part of the U.S. Forest Service, and you can make reservations by calling 1-800-280-CAMP.

Is there a nice place I can fish near the Strip?

Floyd Lamb State Park

Las Vegas residents voted this the best park for picnics in the city. Along with plenty of picnic sites, it has four stocked fishing ponds. If you have a Nevada fishing license you can fish while you picnic. This is a beautiful park that's located only about 20 miles north of the Strip off of Highway 95 at Tule Springs. Quite a few fossils of early mammals such as mammoths, bison, horses, camels, and giant sloths have been found in the area, too, so the kids may want to look for ancient bones while you enjoy the views. The park is open daily, 6am to 7pm, and admission is $6 per vehicle. You can find out more by calling 702-486-5413.

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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.