Las Vegas Daytrip: Red Rock Canyon, Bonnie Springs, Mount Charleston

While the lights and action of Las Vegas are certainly thrilling, sometimes it's nice to get away for a while and explore the surrounding area. Three of the best Las Vegas day trips are on the west side of town and less than an hour's drive. Whether you combine all three into one long day trip or break these sites into separate excursions, Red Rock Canyon, Bonnie Springs and Mount Charleston are home to some fine scenery, abundant wildlife, unusual geology and fascinating history.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon covers almost 200,000 acres in the Mojave Desert. The area has miles of trails, so at least one will be right for any fitness level or schedule. Hikers will appreciate one of the area's most welcome surprises -- waterfalls that tumble into the canyon. In addition, a loop trail allows for exploration by car.

Red Rock Canyon is rich in geologic and archaeological sites. The area is also a good place to observe wildlife and native plants.

  • The Keystone Thrust Fault resulted when ancient forces collided eons ago. The grey limestone plate of ancient seas was forced over the other plate of red sandstone. The bands of rocks are very distinct, and this is a top site for visitors.
  • Red Rock Canyon is also a good place to watch for wildlife, including burros, bighorn sheep, wild horses and mountain lions.
  • For the archaeologists in your group, the petroglyphs and pictographs are fascinating. They prove that humans inhabited this area more than 5,000 years ago.

Bonnie Springs

Bonnie Springs is a replica town and brings to life the old days of this country. It has all things western, including riding stables, music, barbecue and live shows. The town also features shops, snack bars and a zoo. It was once called an oasis in the desert, and for many visitors, it is still an oasis from the heat of Las Vegas.

Bonnie Springs caters to groups for events such as weddings and conferences. It's quite near Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and is in the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.

Mount Charleston

Summer or winter, Mount Charleston draws visitors from Las Vegas. Many come to escape the summer heat and to explore the miles of hiking and biking trails.

As is the case with Red Rock Canyon, there are trails for all ability levels. For beginning hikers, a short hike to Mary Jane Falls holds another surprise: a cave. Jeannie Borbe recommends this and Fletcher Canyon as easy hikes. Mount Charleston surprises visitors with its waterfalls, especially Big Falls, which has a 100-foot seasonal drop.

Mount Charleston offers world-class climbing and fine skiing. It's also a good place for some quiet wildlife viewing and discovering plants that only grow at this elevation -- up to 12,000 feet.

It's nice to know that when you need a vacation from your vacation, the cool green mountains, waterfalls and canyons await. Las Vegas day trips to Red Rock Canyon, Bonnie Springs and Mount Charleston could end up being the most memorable times of your trip.

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