You just arrived, got your camper van, picked up your supplies, now you just can’t wait to get away from the city congestion and get in to the great outdoors. Unfortunately you have already had a long day, your tired, and don’t feel like driving for several hours. What can you do??
Well, the good news is that some truly world class camping can be found within an hours drive of the the Las Vegas Strip. The options run from several run of the mill commercial campgrounds to locations that can be genuine trip highlights. To help stream line your web searching (and your vacation) I have listed a few local favorites below. Depending on your itinerary and personal interests, you may want to spend an extra day or two just exploring these great little local oasis’s.
Just west of the City
Red Rock Canyon ($7 per vehicle entrance fee)
One of Nevada’s best kept secrets, this canyon area has some of the most beautiful geological formations in the south west. Designated as a National conservation area (and not a National Park), the 195,000 acre Canyon is home to multi-colored rock walls, millennia old cave paintings, and small arch formations to rival that of the more well known Arches or Zion National parks in Utah.
Red Rock offers a brief but breath taking 13 mile scenic drive, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, well managed picnic areas, a visitors center complete with a small museum, and over 30 miles of hiking trails. There are also several scenic overlooks and I recommend stopping at each one- as they all provide a completely different perspective. The best part here is that because the Canyon gets such (comparitivelly) few visitors. You will often have overlooks and hiking/biking trails to yourself!
The campground is located just 2 miles past the visitors center along the main scene drive and 71 sites are accessible 24 hours a day. There is no “formal” registration process, instead there are unmanned self check in stations where you just deposit your campground fee at time of arrival. Unfortunately, there are no RV hook ups available, but the site fee is only $15 dollars.
To get there from Las Vegas, take 15 to 215 west. Drive for 13 miles and take exit 26 (Charleston Blvd). Take Charleston for 5 miles until you arrive at the main entrance.
For the most up to date park info, you can call the BLM office located on site: 702-515-5350.
For those headed east toward the Grand Canyon
Lake Mead National Recreation area ($10 per vehicle entrance fee)
Lake Mead is located less then 45 minutes from Las Vegas and its a landmark all to itself. Formed by the Hoover Dam, the “Lake” is actually the largest water reservoir in the United States- covering 112 square miles!
There is no shortage of places to camp here either (provided that your not arriving on Memorial day weekend), you shouldn’t have a tough time finding a spot. There are literally hundreds of sites, spread across five campgrounds and rates are quite reasonable. If your just looking for the basic “park and sleep” set up, then the site fee will only run you $10. For a spot that offers a full RV hook up, prices range from $30-45 dollars (based on location).
If you are like most Campervaner’s, Lake Mead would be just a brief respite on your way to the Grand Canyon or other points east. In that case, I would recommend staying at Boulder Beach. It is arguably the most popular of Lake Mead campgrounds (the fact that it is has the word “beach” in the name probably helps) and is open all year with full facilities. Located on the shore of Lake Mead just minutes from the Hoover dam, It’s easy to find (Between Boulder City and the Hoover Dam, on Lake shore Blvd- just 2 miles off of 93). The area itself is beautiful and there are some great hiking trails and places to explore. Bootleg Canyon, Gold Strike Canyon, and several natural hot springs are all in the immediate vicinity.
Reservations can be made by calling: (702) 293-2540
For those headed north to Utah
Valley of Fire State Park ($12/vehicle entrance fee)
Covering over 42,000 acres, Valley of Fire is the oldest State Park in Nevada. To get there, just take US 15 north for an hour and get off on exit 75 (the park is only about 15 minutes from the highway). Small by some state park standards, the main road that runs from the east entrance to the west exit is a mere 10.5 miles. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of unpaved side roads, and what this park lacks in scale it more then makes up for in unique natural Beauty.
If you do decide to come here for the first time, it may look strangely familiar. That’s because this is where Captain Kirk fell to his death in Star Trek Generations and where the auto bots decided to take a drive in the movie Transformers. Film wasn’t the only type of modern pop culture to pay a visit to the valley- the popular video game Need For Speed features the park as an exciting setting for a fast paced car race.
As for camping, you have have a healthy selection to choose from. There are two different campgrounds with 72 sites between them. Water and electric hook ups are available (no sewage). The cost is $20 plus an additional $10 dollar surcharge is added if you need to connect to either the water or power. Campsites are available on a first come first serve basis, but it never hurts to find out ahead of time if they are getting close to full, try calling (702) 397-2088.
Map of Boulder Beach Campground