We find ourselves frequently in the Las Vegas area, since we love RVing in the west and LV is a great central location. When we tire of the casinos and shows, we have found some great recreation and campsites all within an hour’s drive.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
A little over 30 miles east from the Las Vegas Strip, Lake Mead offers great recreation opportunities, and terrific campgrounds. With 1.5 million acres, this National Recreation Area offers boating, fishing, hiking and biking. And when it comes to setting up your Winnebago, there are over a dozen campgrounds to choose from, with amenities ranging from full hookups (even cable TV) to basic no-hookup sites.
Our favorite place to camp is at Boulder Beach Campground. This location offers easy access to Lake Mead, including a swimming area and marina, the 34-mile paved River Mountains Loop Bike Trail, the nearby Lake Mead Visitor Center, and an easy six-mile bike ride or hike to Hoover Dam. There is also a raft float trip down the Colorado River from the base of Hoover Dam, and just like the bike ride to the Dam, you don’t have to drive; the concessionaire picks up nearby.
Boulder Beach Campground offers no hookups, but there are bathrooms with flush toilets and an easy access dump station with potable water available. This campground has been under refurbishment for over a year, so check out the website for up-to-date details. The updated campsites now have paved and level pads. There is also Wi-Fi available!
If you’re looking for full hookups, right next door is Lake Mead RV Park. Both campgrounds have many sites with great views of Lake Mead, and a primo location to enjoy the recreational opportunities.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (BLM)
Head less than 25 miles west and you arrive at Red Rock Canyon. Here you’ll find stunning geological landscapes. Aztec Sandstone is on display in all its vibrant red color in the great sandstone cliffs of this National Conservation Area. First make a stop at the Visitor Center, which gives all of us novices a geological field lesson on the rock formations. Then head out on the 13-mile loop road through the canyon. There are 26 hiking trails, many of them leaving from parking lots spaced along the loop road. An unusual but welcome sight at these parking lots are the designated “RV ONLY” spots.
We did several of the hikes along the loop, with one of our favorites being Calico Tanks. This 2.5-mile hike had lots of rock scrambling, walking on red rocks, and then the finale – the climb up to the big water “tank” and a great view of Las Vegas in the distance. Although a bit strenuous, the hike was well worth the effort.
Another day, we hopped on our bikes at the campground, and rode over to Red Spring. We then walked the board walk to the petroglyph site, very interesting. Nearby, there was also a designated rock climbing area and, although we haven’t personally embraced this sport, it sure was fun to watch the action!
The Red Rock Canyon Campground is rustic with no hookups and vault toilets (no dump station). So, come prepared. This campground is convenient to the NCA and the sites, although unpaved, are level with easy access.
Valley of Fire State Park
Finally, for the most awesome landscapes, and a wonderfully situated campground, make the one-hour drive northeast to Valley of Fire. This state park showcases the incredible rock colors and formations that were formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of the dinosaurs.
For this outing from Las Vegas, we arrived early to choose a campsite. There are two campgrounds with a total of 72 sites. We opted for Atlatl Rock Campground which has sites that will accommodate large rigs along with water and electric hookups. Arch Rock Campground nearby, but on the other side of a large sandstone formation, is more rustic with generally smaller sites. These campgrounds, along with the prior ones mentioned at Lake Mead and at Red Canyon, do not take reservations. So, arriving early helps ensure a campsite, and one with a view!
Once we secured a campsite, we headed over to the Visitor Center to check out the park’s movie and learn about the geology of the area. We also reviewed the 11 hiking trails to plan our hikes. We chose the one-mile Rainbow Vista Trail which was our warm up for more hiking. As the name states, we walked over the petrified sandstone dunes, checking out the incredible waves of color. Later, we headed over to the White Domes Loop which took us through very different rock formations, including a slot canyon. All good for a day of hiking.
Over the days we spent at Valley of Fire, we watched incredible sunrises and sunsets, and hiked many of the 25 miles of trails. One day, we had to wait as the road was closed for a video shoot for a new car commercial. Watching the car speed through the colored rocks on the twisting road definitely grabbed my interest.
On second thought, these great parks are part of the Glitz of Las Vegas; and all within a one hour’s drive from the Strip!