One of the most underrated things about Las Vegas is the fact that it’s entirely surrounded by wilderness. Drive for about 15 miles in just about any direction from Caesars Palace and suddenly you’ll find yourself in another world entirely—one where neon casinos and pulsing nightclubs are just a technicolor blip on the dark desert horizon. Unlike most urban areas, once you get out of Las Vegas, there’s nothing but starlight, crimson mountains and the smell of sage and creosote.
For nature lovers, paradise in Las Vegas isn’t just the name of the unincorporated area where the Strip is located; it’s the feeling you get when you spend a night camping in the desert.
From popular destinations, such as Red Rock Canyon and Mt. Charleston, to lesser-known spots that are also worthy of your consideration, here’s where to camp near Las Vegas:
Red Rock Canyon
It’s pretty wild to think about the fact that you can take Charleston Blvd. all the way from Downtown Las Vegas to one of the greatest rock-climbing destinations on earth. The 200,000-acre area that is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is famous for its sandstone and limestone cliffs, its 2,066 climbing routes and its many hiking trails. The campground here is located about two miles away from the popular 13-mile Scenic Loop and has 72 sites. As an added bonus, this campground is super close to the Summerlin area, offering you both natural solitude and easy access to dining, shopping and even a round of poker.
Here’s a little secret: if it’s 110-degrees on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s still in the 70’s up at Mt. Charleston. Located an hour away from Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston’s soaring elevation ranges from approximately 7,000 feet to 11,916 on the top of the namesake peak. Nestled in the pines, you’ll find a hiking wonderland, plus four campgrounds and free dispersed camping. If you prefer the former, get here early on summer weekends, as developed campsites fill up fast.
A little-known alternative to Mt. Charleston is the decidedly less crowded Lovell Canyon. Head west on NV-160, and shortly before you hit Pahrump, Nevada, you’ll find Lovell Canyon. A part of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, this is a perfect camping option for those who love Joshua trees, mountain views and privacy. Camping here is free and dispersed, so pitch your tent where you like (just be sure to be respectful of wildlife and plant life) and enjoy the unspoiled high desert landscape.
A lake in the desert? Nope, it’s not a mirage. From kayaking and houseboating to fishing, swimming and hiking, there’s so much to do at Lake Mead, which includes a dizzying 1.5 million acres of wilderness. From the Strip, the closest camping destination at Lake Mead is at Boulder Beach. There are 148 tent and RV sites here, plus group campsites. The best thing about this campground is its close proximity to the water. Spend the day swimming just a short walk from your tent.
Valley of Fire
True to its name, Valley of Fire State Park is lit up red with Aztec sandstone. Located about an hour northeast from the Strip, this insanely photogenic destination gives Red Rock Canyon a run for its money. Here, you can hike through canyons, look for bighorn sheep and learn about native history. There are two campgrounds at Valley of Fire with a total of 72 sites. All sites are first-come, first-serve, so arrive early to snag one and then settle in and enjoy the stunning desert sunset.