10 best fall hikes and outdoor excursions near Las Vegas

Over the next couple of months, Southern Nevadans will experience some of the best temperatures of the year, perfect for enjoying the outdoors.

We are blessed with a wide variety of places to explore — in practically any direction from Las Vegas.

Set out on desert trails or mountain hikes, see historic and cultural sites, go birding or just take an easy drive through the scenery of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park or Lake Mead National Recreation Area. These places are ideal from fall to spring.

Here are 10 hikes or outdoor excursions to tackle this autumn:

Valley of Fire State Park

Nevada’s first state park is pleasing to all ages. Just driving around offers thrilling views of the fiery red sandstone formations, but hiking a couple of short trails is even more rewarding. Before you set out, stop at the visitor center to brush up on the fascinating cultural history of the area. Great starter trails for most people include Mouse’s Tank (sixth-tenths of a mile round-trip), White Dome Loop (1¼ miles) and a quick look at the petroglyphs of Atlatl Rock, which merely involves climbing a steep stair. All three can be done easily in half a day. The park is about 60 miles north of Las Vegas off Interstate 15 North. Elevation is about 2,100 feet, similar to Las Vegas. 702-397-2088 or parks.nv.gov

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St. Thomas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

In the Overton Arm of Lake Mead, just a few miles from Valley of Fire, lies the trailhead to St. Thomas. A Mormon pioneer settlement founded in 1865, St. Thomas thrived until 1938, when rising waters backed up by the new Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) forced its abandonment. It remained underwater until a decade or so ago, when drought uncovered the town site. The trail starts at 1,227 feet elevation, so prepare for weather a little warmer than in town. Head down the embankment onto the flat terrain. Hike a couple of miles on a loop trail with lots of interesting spur paths. Explore the remains, primarily foundations of old homes, a restaurant, a school and large stumps of cottonwood trees that once shaded the village. Look for artifacts such as old china and rusty metal, but leave them in place. 702-293-8990 or nps.gov/lake

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Rogers Spring, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

This hot spring lies along Northshore Road, about six miles south of St. Thomas and Valley of Fire. A spring-fed pond is about 30 yards across and flanked by lush vegetation including palm trees. The pond releases about 1,000 gallons of naturally warmed water per minute. People have enjoyed soaking in Rogers Spring for generations, but it’s important to avoid submerging your face or even splashing water near it; hot springs may contain naegleria fowleria, an amoeba that can make you very sick. This is a great place to picnic at one of the tables under the shaded ramadas. 702-293-8990 or nps.gov/lake

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Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, Lake Mead Lake Mead National Recreation Area

One of the area’s most interesting hikes lies just minutes east of Boulder City. The trail starts at an elevation of 1,567 feet, a tenth of a mile past the Alan Bible Visitor Center, and follows a railroad grade that once brought supplies to Hoover Dam. Walk on the gravel trail through all five tunnels, about four miles round-trip, or just go as far as you feel comfortable and turn around. The tunnels are about 300 feet long and 25 feet wide. You’ll be surrounded by volcanic cliffs and opportunities to see wildlife, especially desert bighorn sheep. While the trail is practically flat, along the way there are severe drop-offs, so you must watch young children carefully. (Note: Construction on the tunnels will take place Mondays to Thursdays through Nov. 15. The trail remains open, but only up to the tunnel being worked on, until repairs are finished. The entire trail will be open Fridays to Sundays.) 702-293-8990 or nps.gov/lake

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Corn Creek at Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Start at the visitor center with its great interpretive displays about the birds, other wildlife and history of the refuge. Behind the visitor center, set out on 1½ miles of five interconnecting trails, some lined with trees and spring-fed ponds. A perennial stream and a fruit orchard add to the enjoyment. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded here, so bring binoculars. Corn Creek is about 30 miles north of Las Vegas off U.S. Highway 95. The visitor center is usually open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, although times and days may change. 702-879-6110 or fws.gov/refuge/desert

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Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge encompasses more than 5,000 acres of lakes, ponds, marshes, meadows and riparian areas, providing homes or rest stops to many kinds of birds. It’s part of the Pacific Flyway, so the next month or so offers opportunity to see migrating birds such as greater sandhill cranes, who stop here briefly but in impressive numbers. Keep an eye out for blue herons, snowy egrets, Canada geese and other waterfowl. At 3,350 feet, it’s a bit cooler than Las Vegas. Bring binoculars, lawn chairs, food and water to visit in comfort. Fifteen primitive campsites are available. The refuge is about 90 miles north of Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 93, just south of Alamo. fws.gov/refuge/pahranagat

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Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

One of Southern Nevada’s finest cultural treasures is the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site, where a 2-mile round-trip hike, along an easy-to-follow wash, involves just a little rock scrambling. Sloan Canyon boasts about 300 panels of rock writing, with 1,700 individual designs. Trailhead elevation is 2,895 feet, with an elevation gain of about 200 feet to the prime viewing area. Plan about a 1-mile hike to the heaviest concentration of rock art. Go early in the morning for more solitude. This is an important and irreplaceable archaeological site, so abide by the rules: no touching or climbing on the rock art. Stay in the wash and use binoculars or your camera’s long lens to view the higher petroglyph panels. This site lies about 20 miles south of Las Vegas. The contact station (small visitor center) hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily this time of year. 702-515-5350 or blm.gov/nevada

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Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area

This little-known park is in Nevada’s southern tip, directly on the Colorado River. Hang out on sandy beaches, swim, fish or launch your kayak or canoe to explore two miles of shoreline. A wide lagoon is perfect for swimming, because it’s away from the river’s main channel and heavy current. Along the birding and hiking trails, look for great blue herons and other waterfowl, phainopepla and hawks. There is a good campground with 24 sites with ramadas, grills and fire pits, bathroom and showers, even RV hookups. Warmer than Las Vegas at around 500 feet elevation, the park is about 100 miles south of here. 702-298-1859 or parks.nv.gov

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Calico Basin-Red Spring Interpretive Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

This is a super boardwalk stroll for all ages and abilities. Interpretive signs on the local wildlife and history entertain and educate as you make your way around the half-mile loop. Look for petroglyphs carved into the desert varnish on the boulders and check out Red Spring itself, which gently flows out of the rock on the far side of the boardwalk. Elevation is about 3,600 feet. Red Rock is about 20 miles west of Las Vegas along state Route 159. 702-515-5350 or redrockcanyonlv.org

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Ice Box Canyon, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

This one is for strong hikers with experience in rock scrambling. The trail starts at 4,285 feet elevation and, depending on how far you want to go, gains 200 feet over the 2.6-mile round-trip. The first mile is on an obvious trail, except crossing Red Rock Wash, but after a mile you drop into a boulder-filled drainage that makes hiking more difficult and requires some rock scrambling. This hike is subject to severe flash flooding, so check the forecast at the visitor center before setting out. 702-515-5350 or redrockcanyonlv.org

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Local
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Timelapse of snow at Red Rock Canyon
More than 7 inches of snow fell in the western areas of the Las Vegas Valley, including Red Rock Canyon, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow falls at Fremont Street Experince in Las Vegas
Snow falls at the Fremont Street Experience early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Las Vegas. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Summerlin
Snow in Summerlin on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Anastasia Hendrix/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Snow At Red Rock Casino
Early morning snow in Summerlin on Thursday, feb. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Las Vegas sees heavy snow fall
Drivers on the 215 Beltway in northwest Las Vegas faced heavy snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow at Red Rock Casino and Resort.
Snow continues to fall Thursday morning in Summerlin. Heaviest snow west of 215.
Snow soccer in Las Vegas -VIDEO
Players enjoy a game of soccer during a snowstorm in the Anthem area east of Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow falls Wednesday evening in Las Vegas
Heavy snow began falling Wednesday evening in the southwestern part of the Las Vegas valley. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Snow falls on the Las Vegas Strip
Snow falls outside the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip as the Golden Knights play the Boston Bruins. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow near Deer Springs and Buffalo
Snow near Deer Springs Way and Buffalo Drive in the northwest Las Vegas Valley on Feb. 20, 2019.(Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Las Vegas at Red Rock Casino Resort
A winter storm brings snow to Red Rock Casino Resort in Summerlin on Feb. 20, 2019. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 20 snow in Centennial Hills (Part 2)
Snowstorm in the far northwest valley. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 20 snow in Centennial Hills
Snowstorm in the far northwest valley. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NDOT prepares for snow and ice from winter storm
The Nevada Department of Transportation gears up to keep roads open when snow and ice hit the Las Vegas valley.
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working cats at St. John the Baptist Church
Parish councilmember John Koutsulis talks about the two cats St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church have adopted as part of a working cats program.
Lee Canyon snow makes skiers smile
Skiers and snow boarders took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday and the recent snowfall at Lee Canyon, outside of Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston gets fresh blanket of snow
A winter storm drops nearly four inches of fresh snow on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at Mount Charleston outside Las Vegas. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in the Las Vegas Valley
Snow accumulated in the Las Vegas Valley for the first time in more than a decade, with snow falling mostly in the western, northwestern and southern areas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review Journal) @bizutesfaye
Snow at US 95 and Lee Canyon Road
Passers-by pulled off Lee Canyon Road northwest of Las Vegas Monday to play in the fresh snow. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road truck on an empty I-15
Snow and ice contributed to the closure of Interstate 15 near Primm. Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal
I-15 traffic diverted at St. Rose Parkway
The Nevada Highway Patrol has closed Interstate 15 in both directions between south Las Vegas and the California state line due to icy road conditions, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ice on roadway shuts down I-15 south of Las Vegas
An overnight snowstorm left an icy roadway, causing the Nevada Highway Patrol to shut down Interstate 15 south of Las Vegas to the California state line. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 closed at St. Rose Parkway
Ice on Interstate 15 caused the Nevada Highway Patrol to close the highway from St. Rose Parkway in south Las Vegas to the California state line on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driving a snowy Sunday night in Summerlin
Several inches of snow have fallen in Summerlin on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. This shows street conditions between Charleston and Far Hills in Summerlin. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Winter wonderland at Summerlin park
A snowstorm hit Fox Hill Park in Summerlin on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February snowstorm in western Las Vegas
A snowstorm hit Summerlin and parts of western Las Vegas on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Summerlin
Snow near Far Hills and Fox Hill Drive.
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Life
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
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Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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