Not far west of Las Vegas lies the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a 13-mile stretch of hiking and biking trails, red rocks, and climbing areas. The NCA is home to a herd of wild burros as well as bobcats and bighorn sheep. Take a scenic drive through the NCA, tour the interpretive trail at the ranger's station, or head off into the backcountry for a more serious hike.
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead are more of a drive, but they make a great day trip if you're looking for a break from the bright lights of Las Vegas. The tour of the dam is dramatic and exciting, and Lake Mead is a great place to go boating, fishing, or stop for a picnic lunch.
Hoover Dam is built with art deco styling and is also surprisingly lovely, and the rushing water is mesmerizing to watch. Three desert ecosystems (the Great Basin, the Mojave, and the Sonoran) come together at Lake Mead, the world's biggest man-made reservoir. The lake is open year round for water-skiing, rafting, swimming, hiking, and fishing.
If you head to the dam, stop off at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory on the way back to see how they make their candies and enjoy a free sample.