I was visiting my sister Barbara to help her celebrate her birthday. She lives in Las Vegas. It was a beautiful day, in the 80s, blue skies, nice and breezy. We were not certain what we wanted to do. Our plans did not include the crowds or the noise of the casinos and downtown strip. Instead we were debating if we might find some wildflowers at either Mt. Charleston or Valley of Fire State Park. Even though we were not going to tackle any hikes today, we decided to explore Mt. Charleston since neither of us had been there before.
Mt. Charleston is a quaint little community sitting at about 9,000 feet above the surrounding desert floor. It is only about 25 miles outside of Las Vegas. The drive up into the mountains offers some beautiful vistas that are atypical for what I think of when I imagine Las Vegas. In the winter, visitors can play in the snow. The hikes and picnic areas would be especially welcoming in the summer because the temperature difference from the bottom to the top of the mountain is said to be as much as twenty degrees.
On this spring day, we drove up to the mountain and saw a drop in temperature from 82 degrees to 66 degrees. The little town is picturesque with its library, church, volunteer fire station—and a lodge for visitors. But basically, I loved the mountains!
The trek up to Mt. Charleston was a pretty little drive, but it was too early in the afternoon to head to dinner—but far too late in the day to wander out to Valley of Fire. Instead, we decided we would take a quick scenic drive through Red Rock National Conservation Area, hoping for wildflowers. After all, it too is just about 25 miles from Vegas. I am always disappointed when I do not see the wild burros who live out there, but I remain hopeful for future visits. There were some flowers still blooming, but they would have been much more vibrant and lush several weeks ago. Next year, maybe I’ll visit in April!
Next time you visit Las Vegas, along with the glitter, the lights, the shows and other various spectacles, think about visiting one of the nature treks close to the city. You’ll have a great time!