Leaving Las Vegas
I rubbed my eyes the only part of my body not aching from the two-and-a-half-mile uphill hikein disbelief. There, not 20 feet ahead of me, where the contour lines on my wrinkled topo map ran through 10,000 feet, were two of the most beautiful horses I had ever seen. No saddles. No bits. No bridles. No ropes. Nothing. Just them, me, the ponderosa pines and the massive granite toes of Mummy Mountain rising behind them into the Nevada sky. Somewhere in the back of my mind, rattling like a quarter in an empty slot machine, the question formed: "This is Las Vegas?"
Here I was, less than an hour from the glitz and glamour of the Vegas Strip, yet worlds apart from the neon-induced fantasy life that attracts 30 million thrill seekers each year. But while most Vegas-bound tourists never venture beyond the proscribed route from their hotel room to the casino floor, an almost surreal natural jackpot awaits hardy explorers who are willing to seek it out.
Within an hour of Ceasars Palace and The Mirage, Southern Nevada struts her wild side better than its finest showgirls. From subalpine vistaslike the one in the Toiyabe National Forest where I stumbled on the feral horsesto Martian red rock canyons, the Las Vegas area offers some of the most beautiful, accessible and, believe it or not, untrammeled wilderness in the West.
Here's a sampling of three of my favorite destinations, with a representative hike for each. Enjoy.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication