What are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Las Vegas? Gambling, entertainment, and dining? Probably. Maybe conventions, maybe organized crime, maybe one of many endlessly entertaining movies set in Vegas, from the hilarious (“The Hangover”) to the thrilling (“Ocean’s Eleven”) to the grim (“Leaving Las Vegas”). Maybe the marketing phrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Whatever images come to mind, hiking is probably not among them.
Sally O’Neal, Las Vegas Airport.
Strolling The Strip
Don’t laugh. Strolling the Las Vegas Strip can be a surprisingly good workout. I’m not saying you’ll burn a lot of calories — if you do it the way I do, there will be more than enough food and beverage stops along the way to offset that. But the truth is that if you leave those strappy sandals for evening and put on a good pair of walking shoes, girlfriend, you can log some serious distance on and around Las Vegas Boulevard.
As a basic guideline, let’s look at The Strip itself — just the Las Vegas Boulevard part. From Mandalay Bay at Las Vegas Boulevard and Russell Road, at the south end of The Strip, to Circus Circus, toward the north end of The Strip, is over 3.5 miles. Stretch it out another mile north to the Stratosphere and you add another hour (although the scenery gets pretty grim along this stretch … I wouldn’t recommend it). Round trip, you’ve got seven to nine miles here.
The Las Vegas Strip.
Another way to add mileage is to turn west off Las Vegas Boulevard at E. Flamingo Road and cross over the freeway to the Rio. The round trip adds 1.5 miles to your walk. If you’re there between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, enjoy the best free show in Las Vegas, the “Show in the Sky.” This display of overhead floats, costumes, and choreography runs hourly on those evenings, and it’s impressive. The Rio is also home to the honest-to-God best buffet I’ve ever experienced, the Village Seafood Buffet. If you’re a seafood lover, look out. You’re going to have a hard time waddling out of there. More incentive to walk!
If this “spur route” doesn’t strike your fancy, consider an eastward trek on Harmon Avenue to either the Hard Rock Casino or the Bavarian-style Hofbrauhaus. Both are on the corner of Harmon and Paradise Road (Hard Rock on the northwest corner, Hofbrauhaus on the southeast). The round-trip walk will add nearly 2.5 miles to your total walk. I don’t recommend this walk at night.
Best Of Vegas Urban Hike
If I had to pick the “best of the best,” I’d do the walk from my hotel south to Mandalay Bay, north to Flamingo (stopping to watch the fountains at Bellagio before turning left), west to the Rio, back to the strip. Staying on the east side, I’d walk through instead of around Caesar’s Palace and continue north as far as Circus Circus. A lot of people diss this kitchy old property, and it is more than a bit worn around the edges, but it has two great things going for it: the arcade games and the steakhouse.
The arcade games are a debatable plus, but I personally don’t consider a trip to Vegas complete if I don’t win a bear there. The Circus Circus Steakhouse, however, is not up for discussion. With all of the amazing restaurants in Vegas, this old-school venue is a consistent award winner that really knows its beef. Like the Rio seafood buffet, it’s only open for dinner (well, I suppose you could have a late lunch at Rio and a late dinner at Circus Circus?), so plan your meal stop accordingly. The return trip to your starting point should result in an 8.5-mile walk.
Don’t knock Circus Circus if you’ve never won a bear there!
What About REAL Hiking?
There are plenty of excellent hiking trails within a short drive of Las Vegas. The classic hiking destination for those wanting to get away from the glitz and glamour, Red Rock Canyon is a collection of hikes among boulders and canyons just a half-hour drive from The Strip.
A quick Google search or purchase of any of several worthy local area hiking books will reveal dozens of other hikes and wilderness areas.
Cathedral Rock is a great 3-miler, ascending 1,200 feet to rewarding views. The well-maintained, three-season trail is shaded by big trees and boasts a waterfall just off the trail and wildflowers in season.
Also popular with locals is a bouldering jaunt known as Big Falls. No longer a maintained trail, the 4-mile round trip remains justifiably popular due to the spectacular waterfall and proximity to the city. Expect slippery footing and be aware of the 1,000-foot elevation gain.
And when you’ve had your fill of risky business amongst the canyons and boulders, you can always return to dinner and a show and the equally risky business of handing your money over to the dealers or the machines along The Strip.
Sally O’Neal enjoys both urban and wilderness hiking and is always in search of the next scenic trail and gourmet meal. Although not a gambler, she finds plenty to love about Las Vegas.