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Breaking Travel News investigates: Adventure tourism in Las Vegas

Breaking Travel News investigates: Adventure tourism in Las Vegas

Many of the most famous tourism sites in Las Vegas qualify as iconic – representing hedonism, gambling and excess.

The Strip – home to 4,000-room hotels, thousands of roulette tables and some of the most expensive gig tickets anywhere on earth – is about as famous as hospitality landmarks get, while Fremont Street represents a new generation of entertainment.

No visit to Sin City would be complete without a visit to one or both.

But there are multiple other sides to Las Vegas.

These days, the city makes more money as a meetings, incentives, conference and events (MICE) destination than it is does as a hotbed of vice – something local tourism officials like to keep rather quiet so as to maintain the seedier reputation of yesteryear.

There are also – believe it or not – adventure tourism opportunities for visitors, with some world-class scenery under an hour from the bright lights and show girls.

During a recent visit, I explored two such prospects – cycling in the Red Rock Canyon and canoeing on the nearby Colorado River.

First up, cycling.

While there are a few tour operators plying their trade in the mountains around Las Vegas, Bike Blast has a wide-ranging selection of experiences and a solid reputation.

On the day of our adventure, our guide picked us up at the door of our hotel and talked us through the local landscapes as we made the hour-long journey out to Red Rock Canyon on the western outskirts of the city.

World-renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in grey and tan limestone, there is certainly no shortage of scenery to admire.

The area contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years, while a visitor centre provides exhibits on the geology, ecology and history of the park and nearby region.

Our journey was aimed at intermediate riders, taking in a 13-mile scenic stretch around the base of mountains and offering us a chance to explore the highs and lows of the canyon from our saddles.

Bikes are only allowed one-way along the road, so as we set off, I knew there was no turning back.

The first part of the route is – by far – the hardest, a five-mile, slow climb to the summit, around 1,400 metres above the visitor centre below.

It is hard work, even in the cool of early spring, but rewarding once you crest over the peak and drink in the views below.

In one direction, the city of Las Vegas, and all it represents, in the other, serenity, untouched nature, solitude and sanctuary from that very same city.

The ride down the other side is exhilarating, allowing us to reach some fairly high speeds as we ping around corners and come rather close to alarming drops on a number of occasions.

Desert Tortoise habitats are close by, so riders are advised to stick closely to the path, but there are chances to see the various other flora and fauna that dot the arid landscape.

In total, we spent 90 mins on the ascent and descent, stopping at viewpoints to snap the obligatory Instagram photos and take a breather.

Back in the van, it is an hour back to the city and slot machines.

In the other direction, west of Las Vegas toward the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, Evolution Experiences takes guests on a number of kayaking trips along the Colorado River and Lake Mead.

The area has seen an explosion of interest in recent years, with Willow Beach Marina humming with various groups of hardy adventurers when we arrived.

We embarked on the Emerald Cave Express tour, which took us two hours along the river toward the eponymous cave, before the current helped us back the other way slightly faster.

A great tour option for beginners or advanced paddlers alike, we were joined by a family with a young child on our tour – a much less strenuous adventure than the peaks of the Red Rock Canyon.

With one person per Prijon touring kayak, we enter the canyon and are transported back in time.

Under a gentle sun, we paddle past historic sites such as the relics of a 1920 government project that gave life to the desert southwest.

The river is situated between two dams – the Hoover and Davis – so the water remains placid throughout, allowing us to gently make our way to the Emerald Cave.

Our group of 15 or so easily fits into the natural wonder, allowing us ample time to snap some shots of the crystal clear wates, with sunlight glinting through.

Tour guide Ryan - an enthusiastic, knowledgeable presence throughout our day - explains how the site became popular in the 1980s and solemnly explains it may no longer reachable by paddle by the middle of the century if the water behind the Hoover Dam continues to decline at the current rate.

Making our way back, it is hard not to be overawed by the stunning scenery.

The Black Canyon is located on the state line between Nevada and Arizona, so paddlers move from one side to the other during their trip. 

The western wall of the gorge is carved from the El Dorado Mountains, while the eastern side is in the Black Mountains – both are around 15 million years old.

Gently returning to the marina, spirits are high even among the least-experience canoeists – a highly recommended tour, taking in areas often missed by visitors only interested in the poker tables of downtown.

While the Las Vegas Strip is a world-class attraction in its own right, there is certainly a lot more on offer to those willing to explore the natural wonders just outside the city itself.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic flies direct between London Heathrow and Las Vegas with return fares from £601 per person, including complimentary food, drink, inflight entertainment and taxes.

For further information visit the official website or call 0344 8747 747.

This fare is available for departure on November 28th and is for seven nights. Prices given are correct as of February 21st and are subject to change.

More Information

The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is considered North America’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre by voters at the World Travel Awards.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole