The temperature in California’s Death Valley, about a two-hour drive northwest of Las Vegas, reached a scorching 130 degrees on Aug. 16, reportedly the hottest the planet has been in in 89 years and the third-warmest temperature ever recorded.

Some travelers may be attracted to the furnace-like conditions out of morbid curiosity; many more look to the Southwest desert to escape winter conditions where they live.

While it may be too hot for some right now to be outdoors in southern Nevada, it’s not too soon to plan a getaway from the neon to nature in the cooler months. After all, social distancing will likely still be a useful tool in the fight against Covid-19 in the fall, and recreational opportunities abound within driving distance of the Las Vegas Strip.

“Outdoor recreation is really important to the way we promote the state,” said Chris Moran of the Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada). “We promote the whole state. Besides Las Vegas, we’re always touting the beautiful public land here, all the wonderful places to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”

Larger than the state of Rhode Island and just about a 30-minute drive from the Strip, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers boating, rafting and Jet Skiing within its 1.5 million acres.

“It’s amazing,” Moran said. “The history of how it was created and all the things around it are fascinating. It’s a great place for outdoor recreation, but don’t skip out on the history, too.

Tours of Hoover Dam have been suspended because of the pandemic, but those on the water can see one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, which created the lake. Built in the 1930s, it is an example of art deco architecture and generates about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year for use in Nevada, Arizona and California.

The Lost City Museum contains artifacts recovered from local prehistoric archaeological sites, most of which were flooded when the Colorado River was dammed to form Lake Mead.

Near Lake Mead, Lake Las Vegas resort in Henderson features a 40,000-square-foot floating Aqua Park and standup paddleboarding, flyboard experiences and kayaking.

Hikers and climbers are drawn to the magnificent colors of the Red Rock National Conservation Area, about 17 miles west of the Strip.  In addition to 2,000 climbing routes, Red Rock also offers a 13-mile scenic drive, picnic areas, cycling and 26 different hikes and trails.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park near Red Rock has been used historically as a working ranch and a luxury retreat by some very colorful owners, including German actress Vera Krupp and Howard Hughes. Visitors can explore some of Nevada’s oldest buildings in the park.

More than 60 miles of trails wind through Mount Charleston in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, just 30 minutes northwest of Las Vegas. Most trails start at more than 6,000 feet in elevation, with some culminating at the 11,916-foot Charleston Peak. The area provides a welcome respite from the heat of the desert floor during the summer and early fall.

A little farther drive to the northeast, Valley of Fire State Park, with 11 trails over 40,000 acres, boasts Aztec sandstone and petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.
Moran also pointed out often-overlooked areas of southern Nevada. Lincoln County, home of five state parks, about two hours north of Las Vegas, recently put down 40 miles of mountain bike trails in the Caliente area.

Farther north, Tonopah is the site of the state’s second-largest silver strike and is a great place to hike and explore Nevada history, she said.

Travelers should visit the recreation areas’ websites to learn about visitor centers, weather conditions, restrictions because of the pandemic, associated businesses and amenities.

Moran said Travel Nevada’s upcoming campaign, “Discover Your Nevada,” will roll out new itineraries in the coming weeks.

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