Valley of Fire

Nevada’s biggest rock star can’t be found on the Strip

What stays in Vegas rarely strays from Vegas, so for most visitors to America’s un-desertlike desert playground, the trek from one casino to another is enough of a hike. But steel yourself because gorgeous Southwestern landscapes are within easy reach. Cruise west by way of Flamingo Road from the Strip, and in 30 minutes you’ll find the soaring cliffs and hidden springs of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The 13-mile loop offers plenty of chances to get out and roam. Or go big with a lazy 75-mile roadie out Northshore Road along Lake Mead to Valley of Fire State Park, where the muted tones of the flat desert (56 miles via Interstate 15) give way to petrified 150-million-year-old dunes that, in the right light, flame to chile pepper red. There are petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock, while wind and water have etched small caves and arches into many of the outcroppings. Even short hikes, especially the 1.25-mile round-trip to the swirling patterns at Fire Wave, lead to spots that will make the bright lights of Vegas seem a little less spectacular.