Las Vegas attracts around 50 million tourists every year. Not everyone wants to hunker down at the blackjack table; many come to Vegas for the beautiful mountains, abundant hiking trails, and endless sunshine. Whether you’re on a family vacation or a local looking to venture out with the little ones, this selection of kid-friendly hikes in Las Vegas is sure to keep you busy.
How to pick the perfect kid-friendly hiking trail
The key to picking a Las Vegas family hike is understanding the physical limits of those little ones and considering the time of year. Although Las Vegas is all-year sunshine, the temperatures vary wildly from summer to winter. The trails listed below are separated into four regions around the valley:
- Red Rock Canyon (west) – Comfortable temperatures Sept-May, some spots offer morning shade for short early summer hikes.
- Mount Charleston (northwest)- Snowy in winter, comfortable hiking temperatures in the summer.
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area (east)- Winter hiking, no shade offered in hot summer temperatures.
- Sloan Canyon (south)- Winter hiking, little shade offered in hot summer temperatures.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is America’s most popular National Conservation Area and for good reason. It’s only 30mins drive from the Las Vegas Strip and offers stunning geological features. It’s a favorite spot for climbers and hikers alike, and there are trails and off-the-beaten-track routes for all abilities. Unless you can handle some serious heat I would avoid hiking in summer, but even if you’re visiting when it’s unbearably hot I would suggest driving through the 10-mile scenic loop and stopping and some viewpoints for photos. You can still enjoy a good view of the mountains without entering the scenic drive, and I have included some hikes inside the fee-paying loop and others outside it.
How to enter the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area scenic loop
To enter the Red Rock Scenic Loop you will need to pass the fee-paying entrance gate. If you have an America is Beautiful Pass you are good to go, otherwise the fee (at time of writing) is $20 per car (1 day) or $50 for an annual pass. If you are visiting peak time, October through May, you’ll also need to book a timed entry, which has a $2 fee. Book your timeslot at the recreation.gov website and for the latest information on fees and passes check out the Red Rock Canyon Website.
Calico Tanks Trail
Calico Tanks Trail is by far my kid’s favorite trail because it’s exciting and offers endless scrambling and exploring. It’s an out-and-back trail, so you can turn around at any point, but if you make it to the end and back you’ll cover 2.3 miles. Having said that, it’s not an easy, flat 2-mile hike, it involves climbing steps, clambering over boulders, and over 400ft of elevation gain. There’s a little exposure in a couple of spots so I’d keep the little ones in footwear with some grip, but overall it’s a really fun, family-friendly, and stunning beautiful hike. Go early because the parking lot fills up quickly. Note: This hike IS inside the fee-paying scenic loop but is worth it.
2. Children’s Discovery Trail
Inside the scenic loop, the children’s discovery trail offers a nice easy trail, with enough interest in the terrain to keep kids interested but without any difficult scrambling. You can follow the 1-mile loop or head to the waterfall at the back of the trail and back again. The little waterfall is often frozen in winter which is always a crowd pleaser, although soon dries up in spring, so it’ll be potluck as to whether you’ll see any water. Still, even the gramps enjoyed this one, so if you’re in the scenic loop it’s worth venturing from the trailhead.
3. Guardian Angel
If you don’t want to book a time slot and pay to enter the scenic loop, Calico is located just east of the scenic loop and is currently free to enter. Red Springs picnic area offers, restrooms, tables, a stroller-friendly boardwalk, and the Calico Basin Trailhead. From here you can head along the trail for about 0.8 miles before you’ll have to break off to the left (leave before entering ‘Girl Scout Trail’) and start scrambling up towards the Guardian Angel. This is a busy route although once you break off from the marked trail you will need to feel comfortable exploring and wayfinding without clear markers. You’ll no doubt pass others on the same quest… to find the allusive Guardian Angel, a carving in the rock around 1.5 miles from the trailhead. It’s easy to miss, but that’s what makes it an adventure. Worst case, you have a good scramble up the rocks, enjoy the view and head back down. If your family has some stamina you can make a loop of it, although my seven-year-old was ready to turn back at the Angel. It is a little off the beaten track, and I would suggest using the AllTrails app if you want help navigating the full loop.
When the valley gets too hot, head for a higher elevation. The trails at Mount Charleston start at around 7000ft so it is considerably cooler than the city and only an hour’s drive north. In the winter this area is great for low-key sledding, and the Lee Canyon ski resort typically opens December through April. If you want to play in the snow, come prepared, but if you’re looking for a break from the heat and some pretty hiking trails, head to Mount Charleston in the summer months.
4. Little Falls
Little Falls trail is probably the shortest of the trails in Mount Charleston and is very achievable for the little ones at 0.8 miles (out and back total). There’s a little elevation gain but nothing too steep and when you get to the end you’ll find the little waterfall which always feels like an achievement. There are plenty of sticks to play with, logs to sit on, and overall it’ll be a hit with all. The hike starts from the same parking as the Cathedral Rock Trailhead, but you’ll want to start from the lower section of the parking lot.
5. Stanley B Springs Trail
This hike is on the to-do list with my kids this summer because it’s been recommended many times by hiking friends as a great kid-friendly hike. It’s a relatively short trail, has the option of a loop and if your kids can find the creek there’s a little water to play in too. The trailhead is located in the heart of Mount Charleston, close to camping and picnicking, I can’t wait to find out more for myself!
6. Cathedral Rock Trail (for the older kids)
Cathedral Rock Trail is a 1.2-mile out-and-back trail, but you gain 740ft of elevation in just over half a mile. It’s steep and particularly tiring if you are not used to hiking at elevation. It was perfect for my 11 yr-old but she was absolutely whacked afterwards! My little dog thought it was great so bring the fur baby too. It really depends on what your kids can do, I know my 7 yr-olds would find it boring and too difficult because it is very much a trail hike, but the views are absolutely stunning and it’s probably the most popular trail in Mount Charleston. The route ends at a fantastic viewpoint, and you often get to see chipmunks scavenging for food while hikers eat their lunch.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a vast, wild landscape spanning far beyond the lake itself. Although generally not as popular as Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston for hiking, Lake Mead offers some interesting pockets of wildlife and there are some real gems for a family hike. Although the hikes featured here include canyons and tunnels, on the whole, Lake Mead is very exposed to the sun and it is not advised to visit these areas in mid-summer. Similar to Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area does have areas that require paid entry to the park, but not time-slot booking is required, just turn up. If you have an America is Beautiful Pass you are good to go (this can also be bought at the gate), otherwise the fee (at time of writing) is $25 per car (1 day) or $45 for an annual pass. For the latest fees check out the Lake Mead website.
7. White Owl Canyon
This kid-friendly hike starts with a simple trail down from the parking lot and leads to an unusual slot canyon made of conglomerate rock. It’s sure to impress the kiddos as they weave through the canyon, dipping under overhangs and finding little nooks to hide in. It’s called White Owl Canyon for a reason… if you’re lucky you might spot an owl or two, so don’t forget to look up! At the end of the slot canyon, you’ll find a large storm drain tunnel which is lots of fun to run through. We turned back after the tunnel but the trail does continue in a loop back through another tunnel. Personally, I think the slot is worth turning back for and walking through a second time
8. Historic Railway Tunnels (for the older kids)
The historic railway trail to the Hoover Dam is often the first hike locals recommend for people with kids because it’s relatively stroller-friendly (compacted gravel) and the flat terrain makes it an easy walk. The tunnels are great fun to walk through, there are fantastic views of the lake and if you can make it the full 4 miles, you be rewarded by arriving at the Hoover Dam! The reason I don’t recommend it for young kids on foot is that it’s 1 mile to the first tunnel, and that mile is not the most exciting to walk. My little ones were bored quickly and we turned back before we hit the first tunnel, but I’ve returned a number of times on my own with the doggo and it’s a really great trail. Kids who are a little older will appreciate this hike more than the little ones I’m sure.
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
Sloan Canyon is more of a locals spot, with a wide range of hiking and biking trails. There is no fee to enter and it’ll likely be less busy than the other areas mentioned in this post. It’s probably overall less exciting for kids, but I had to feature Petroglyph Gallery because it really is amazing to see.
9. Petroglyph Gallery (for the older kids)
Park at the BLM Sloan Canyon Visitor Contact Station and walk around 1 mile along a simple trail and you’ll come across an incredible example of Native American petroglyphs thought to be up to 4,000 years old. There are over 1000 individual designs, in over 300 clusters; as the title suggests, this is a literal gallery of ancient art. You can pass through the gallery and make a loop or head back the way you came, which personally I think is better because you get to see the petroglyphs all over again. Little littles might not want to walk the mile to get to the art, and may not be as wowed by it as older kids, but if you’re a history geek this one’s for you!
10. Clark County Wetlands Park (stroller friendly)
Not really a ‘hiking’ trail but the Wetlands Park made the list because it’s a real gem in the Valley. Visit the nature center (closed Mondays) and choose from a few different routes around the wetlands. It’s a great bird-spotting area and the Wetlands Loop Trail is paved so it’s perfect for the tinies in the stroller. The wetlands park is free to use and as you can tell from the park map, there is lots to do.
Whether you’re just visiting or a local ready to see more of our beautiful valley, these hikes are a great way to spread an interest in geology, culture, and the great outdoors. See you on the trails!