Red Rock Canyon
The Las Vegas might sparkle, but Red Rock Canyon is the valley’s true gem. It’s stunning and stunningly close to the Strip, about 16 miles from downtown. The scenic drive alone is worth the trip, but if possible, hit the dirt to discover the truly wild side of Vegas, with its thousands of plants and animals from deer and hawks to the rare gila monster. For an easy, picturesque hike, try the half-mile Lost Creek-Children’s Discovery trail, and see if you can catch the seasonal waterfall. Bring water and be warned: You may never want to leave.
Seven Magic Mountains
They’re big, colorful, and highly unexpected, so it’s easy to see why the Seven Magic Mountains are such a popular Instagram destination. And while it’s true that the dayglow boulders look great in photos, they’re also a subtle commentary on the sparkling city that awaits: a loud, neon spectacle surrounded by indifferent desert. The outdoor artwork by Swiss-born Ugo Rondinone was originally supposed to stand for two years, but thanks to its 1,000 daily visitors, it’ll stay until at least 2021. Go at sunset for maximum color-poppage, and sure, go ahead and snap a selfie.
Eldorado Canyon/Nelson, Nevada
If you want to be transported to the Wild West, look no further than Eldorado Canyon. Hidden in the mountains along the Colorado River is a mining town that seems frozen in time. After cruising down a stretch of Highway 95, turn off on Nevada State Route 165 for a scenic drive into Nelson where you’ll find an old general store, a small airplane graveyard, giant abandoned mines, and, at the end of the road, the Colorado River, waiting for you to take a cool dip. Wander the grounds of the general store for great photos, and be sure to check out the bedroom next to the restrooms. Hint: It’s out of this world.