Check In, Then Get Out in Vegas

Pool parties not your thing? There are plenty of other ways to get some sun and an eyeful of nature’s bounty

When Vegas gets to feeling like an endless, impeccably designed, martini-fueled blur, step out into all that nearby desert glory for a breather. After snowmelt, the Colorado River surges through Hoover Dam’s turbines into Black Canyon, where hot springs, waterfalls, emerald caves, and slot canyons can be reconnoitered via kayak. Take the 12-mile Ringbolt Run with Desert Adventures (702-293-5026), an overnight float on easy water, sleeping under high bluffs peppered with neon-shy bighorn sheep (book the $339 trip for Sunday and Monday, when motorized craft are forbidden in the canyon). Those cliffs calling you? The American Alpine Institute (360-671-1505) leads beginner’s climbing symposiums at Red Rock Canyon. A sandstone wonderland 20 minutes west of the Strip, the area is a top climbing destination, with 2,000 routes; $325 will have you clawing your way up Solar Slab Gully or the multipitch Physical Graffiti (it’s true—it rocks). Nature turns the color dial to 11 an hour northeast of Vegas in the Valley of Fire State Park, where sand dunes have transformed into biomorphic shapes like Elephant Rock and the Seven Sisters. Hiking trails lead from Rainbow Vista into Fire Canyon and from White Domes Road through Petroglyph Canyon to Mouse’s Tank, a rock cistern ideal for ankle dippers. For something deeper, Lake Mead is a premier freshwater dive. If you’re certified, Scuba Views (702-645-0516) will outfit you for around $45 and offers charter trips to beginner sites like Bass Cove and Stair Case as well as more intense descents to sandstone pillars at the Crack and lost ships in Wreck Alley.