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  • Basecamp Outdoor Gear Team

Best winter hikes near Las Vegas

Updated: Mar 3

Winter is the best season to hike under the blazing desert sun. Luckily, Las Vegas is surrounded by just such features. Grab your hiking shoes, a windbreaker, and an insulated bottle of coffee or tea, and set out to explore our backyard.

Below are some of our favorite winter hikes near Las Vegas.

view of skyscrapers behind red and beige rock mounds
Las Vegas skyline from Red Rock Canyon NCA

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LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA

Lake Mead is actually a huge reservoir in the middle of its unlikely desert surrounding. The Hoover Dam is responsible for blocking the Colorado River at Black Canyon, and thus raising the water table to lake levels. In summer, locals flock to the lake to escape the unbearable city heat. But in winter, it is the surrounding desert that receives our attention.


Fortification Hill

Length: 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

Notes: A dirt road with sharp rocks leads to the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, though not required. Some exposed scrambling required near the summit. Please go slow and watch your footing. It could also get windy at the summit, so bring a windbreaker.

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: Cold days offer the clearest views from the summit. Not to mention that the hike is very sunny, making it perfect for winter.

Detailed trail description: Fortification Hill


A glimpse of the lake from Boulder City or the Hoover Dam will make you want to explore the viewpoints and canyons that surround it. A good place to start is Fortification Hill.

The hike is fairly straightforward through a desert environment. Toward the summit, it weaves between basalt boulders, with a short exposed scramble. Don't be deterred by this. Just take it slow and be careful. Soon the summit rewards you with amazing views of Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, and the surrounding peaks.

canyon lake with bathtub ring
View of Lake Mead from Hoover Dam, Fortification Hill in the far background

Goldstrike Hot Springs

Length: 6 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

Notes: This is a very fun hike for the whole family, but it is challenging! Some sections of it require rock scrambling, at times with fixed ropes. Bring your bathing suit, a towel, extra water, and snacks.

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: It is closed in summer due to extreme heat, it's very sunny, and the hot water at the springs is hard to beat.

Warning: These hot springs are located in a narrow canyon subject to flash flooding. Always check the weather before setting out on this hike. Reschedule or change your plans if there is any chance of rain.

Detailed trail description: Goldstrike Hot Springs


We mention hot springs in almost every post about Las Vegas. Go there, and you'll understand why. You have a choice of a few different hot springs just downstream from the Hoover Dam. A cool way to approach any of them is to kayak down the Colorado River, then hike uphill to the pools. If you're not kayaking, you can get to Goldstrike and Arizona hot springs via moderately strenuous hikes that begin off Hwy 11.

Goldstrike Hot Springs is closest to the Hoover Dam. This hiking trail consists of fun obstacles and stunning canyon views. It eventually leads to natural hot springs where you can take a dip and relax from the strenuous hike. At the end of the 3-mile trail is the gorgeous Colorado River. Note that this is not a loop, so you must return the way you came.


Bonus at low river flow, you can hike a bit downstream to the steamy and seldom visited Sauna Hot Spring. But please check the flow release schedule of the Hoover Dam so you don't get caught in the rapidly rising river!

Arizona Hot Spring

Length: 5.2 miles roundtrip for the direct way or 6-mile loop

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

Notes: Usually, a 20-foot ladder connects the hot springs with the Colorado River trail, allowing for a loop hike. Unfortunately, the ladder washed away by a flash flood in 2019 and has not yet been replaced. There is currently no access to the hot springs from the Colorado River.

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: It is closed in summer due to extreme heat, it's very sunny, and the hot water at the springs is hard to beat.

Warning: These hot springs are located in a narrow canyon subject to flash flooding. Always check the weather before setting out on this hike. Reschedule or change your plans if there is any chance of rain.

Detailed trail description: Arizona Hot Spring


Arizona Hot Spring is just a few miles down the highway past Goldstrike Hot Springs. Two hikes depart to the hot natural soaking pools from the big parking lot off Hwy 11. The direct way to the hot springs is 2.5 miles one-way and offers scenic valley views. The longer way provides beautiful photo opportunities along the Colorado River. A 20-foot ladder at the end of this trail gets you to the hot springs.


Whichever way you choose, you'll find some difficult short sections, but both are perfect leisurely winter day hikes. Should you want to backpack in, this trail offers some no-frills camping with very few amenities next to the Colorado River.

If you have energy, for a bit of a change of scenery, take the 2-mile spur trail to Liberty Bell. You'll be rewarded with remnants of an old mine, a cool-looking natural arch, and Black Canyon views.


MOUNT CHARLESTON AREA

Every city must have a ski resort, and Las Vegas is no exception. Visitors to Las Vegas are always amazed at the proximity of the 11,000-foot peak to the city. But you don't have to ski in order to visit the mountain. Depending on the weather, numerous trails in Mt Charleston may be hiked with waterproof boots or snowshoes.

Bristlecone Loop

Length: 6-mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Notes: Bring snowshoes and dress warmly

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: It's excellent in all seasons. Check it out in our list of favorite summer hikes near Las Vegas.

Detailed trail description: Bristlecone Loop


This is hands-down our favorite hike in the Mount Charleston area. The 6-mile Bristlecone Loop skirts through pine and aspen groves and provides beautiful views of the surrounding peaks. It is, in fact, the only trail we've hiked in Mt Charleston that provides such majestic views and is open year-round.


wind-blown pine tree in front of snowy peak
Mt Charleston in summer

SLOAN CANYON NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA

Hard to believe this exists so close to the city. Sloan Canyon NCA and the North McCullough Wilderness feature thousands of acres of untouched nature. Hiking here takes you through old lava flows to one of the most significant petroglyph sites in southern Nevada.


Sloan Canyon Loop

Length: 7-mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Notes: Dress warmly. It can get very windy at the saddles.

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: It is very sunny

Detailed trail description: Sloan Canyon Loop


If you could only do one hike in Sloan Canyon, go for the petroglyphs. This site of more than 300 rock art panels represents nearly 1,700 individual designs. Dating back to the Archaic period, these petroglyphs have wonderfully withstood the test of time.

The quickest way to get to the petroglyphs is a fairly easy 30-minute walk. However, we recommend taking a longer 7-mile loop around the park to truly experience the pristine desert outside of Las Vegas.

The loop takes you through the petroglyphs site twice. With the changing sunlight hitting the rocks, you're bound to notice many designs that you missed the first time through.


To check out a different part of the park, go to the Park Peak Loop. This is a fun jaunt among basalt boulders and up a small hill that affords wonderful views of Las Vegas.


RED ROCK CANYON NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA

Red Rock Canyon NCA is the quintessential desert gem that makes the Las Vegas skyline so attractive. However you approach the city, you can't miss its colorful towering sandstone peaks.

Geologists coming in for a closer view immediately recognize the Keystone Thrust. Amateurs can see it too where older limestone folded over younger red sandstone. Native American buffs will get excited at every petroglyph, pictograph, and roasting pit they find. Not to mention rock climbers that flock to the natural Red Rock cliffs from all around the world.


Muffin Trail

Length: 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: Summer is way too hot and this is a very sunny trail

Detailed trail description: Muffin Trail


On the other side of the scenic byway from Red Rock Canyon lies a hidden limestone world of wonders. Cavers love exploring underground while hikers and mountain bikers climb to higher ground for the surrounding views. It doesn't require much elevation gain before you're rewarded with the iconic Red Rock panorama. Make it to the top of the hill, to a pair of boulders that look like muffin tops, and the Vegas skyline opens up on the other side.


Gateway Canyon

Length: 3-mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Notes: Hike requires a bit of rock scrambling

Reasons to hike this trail in winter: You can hike this year-round. If going in summer, do it very early in the morning.

Detailed trail description: Gateway Canyon Loop


The Gateway Canyon Loop is a chance to explore the multiple colors of Red Rock. For once, it isn't the views or the destination that make this hike so fun. It is the journey itself.

panorama of mountains with red stripe
The iconic sandstone peaks of Red Rock Canyon NCA

For more ideas of things to do around Las Vegas and the world at large, check out these DetourOn travel resources.

If you need more information and directions on any of the trails mentioned please don’t hesitate to contact us! Have a great winter opting outside and happy trails.

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