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Desert Companion

Wild in the streets (and trails)

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Springs Preserve
Courtesy Springs Preserve

Springs Preserve

Introduce your little ones to the great big world outside with these resources 

In a world of tablets, smartphones and video games, it’s easy to forget there’s a wild world of outdoor adventure just beyond your doorstep. Not ready to haul the family on an epic backcountry hike of the North Rim? Understandable! Here are some newbie-friendly resources that are sure to stoke your kids’ budding appetites for the great outdoors.

Las Vegas

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Bonnie SpringsThe site originally served as a stopping point for travelers heading to California. Today, the ranch features an old-fashioned town, petting zoo, pony rides, and horse stables. Pony rides are available for kids who are at least 5 years old and weigh less than 50 pounds. Horseback riding is available for kids age 6 and older. 16395 Bonnie Springs Road, 702-875-4191, bonniesprings.com

 

Boy Scouts of America Las Vegas Area Council

The Boy Scouts organization emphasizes self-reliance, resourcefulness, and leadership skills. Participants learn about the outdoors and nature through excursions to a variety of camps throughout the region. Donald Reynolds Scouting Resource Center, 7220 S. Paradise Road, 702-736-4366, lvacbsa.org

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Cowboy Trail Rides

Explore Red Rock Canyon on horseback during one of Cowboy Trail Rides’ guided excursions. The 60-minute Coyote Canyon ride is a good place to start for beginners. Children ages 7 and older are welcome, and helmets are provided. 4053 Fossil Ridge Road, 702-387-2457, cowboytrailrides.com

 

Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs

This 680-acre park features walking trails, picnic areas, fishing ponds, and the historic Tule Springs Ranch. Daily entrance fee is $6 per car. 9200 Tule Springs Road, lasvegasnevada.gov

 

Friends of Nevada Wilderness

This organization is dedicated to protecting Nevada’s public lands. Check their website for volunteer opportunities, a list of wilderness areas by region, and the “kid’s corner” section, which provides a helpful list of online resources for kids. 702-515-5417, nevadawilderness.org

 

Gilcrease Orchard

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are available for picking three days per week from 7 a.m. until noon. In fall, pick pumpkins and enjoy a hayride. 7800 N. Tenaya Way, 702-409-0655, thegilcreaseorchard.org

 

Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada

The Girl Scouts organization encourages girls to have “courage, confidence, and character” by emphasizing leadership skills and community service. Girls learn about the outdoors through camping trips and nature-themed outings. The main office is located at 2941 E. Harris Ave., 702-385-3677, girlscoutsnv.org

 

Hualapai Canyon Loop Trail

This trail, located in Summerlin, might not seem like the best place to experience nature. However, a stroll at dusk will reveal a host of desert creatures who come out of hiding once the heat of the day has subsided. Kids can look for rabbits, lizards, and other animals during this 1-mile walk. The trailhead can be accessed from a parking lot along Hualapai Way, north of Alta.

 

Las Vegas Natural History Museum

From sea life to rocks and minerals, the exhibits at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum cover a broad range of natural sciences. Plus, visitors will also find a dose of human history, thanks to the museum’s Treasures of Egypt exhibit. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 3-11. 900 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-384-DINO, lvnhm.org

 

Nevada State Museum

Located adjacent to Springs Preserve, the Nevada State Museum showcases the history of Southern Nevada. Learn about local creatures, past and present. Kids will especially enjoy the enormous mammoth that greets them at the entrance to the gallery. 309 S. Valley View Blvd., 702-486-5205, museums.nevadaculture.org/nsmlv-home

 

Red Rock Audubon Society

The Jr. Audubon Club strives to help kids develop an interest in birds and explore the outdoors. Membership is $10 per year for children in grades 2-5. The Red Rock Audubon Society’s website is a helpful resource, providing a list of bird festivals in neighboring states for those looking for feather-filled road trip ideas. 702-390-9890, redrockaudubon.com

 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon offers many opportunities for outdoor exploration, including hiking trails, picnic spots, and a visitor center with nature-themed outdoor exhibits. Visitors can also drive the park’s 13-mile scenic loop. Admission is $7 per vehicle. Annual passes are available for $30 per person. Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association, 1000 Scenic Loop Drive, 702-515-5367, redrockcanyonlv.org

 

Shark Reef Aquarium

Shark ReefLearn about sharks, sting rays, and other water-loving creatures at Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef. In addition to visiting the aquarium’s permanent residents, guests can also check out the special exhibit Sea Monsters Revealed, which runs through October 2016. Located inside Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-632-4555, sharkreef.com

 

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

This state park, which is located within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, offers a quiet retreat for visitors. Hike the relatively short Overlook Trail to enjoy beautiful views, or take a tour of the historic ranch house. Admission is $9 per vehicle, but Nevada residents receive a $2 discount. 6375 NV 159, 702-875-4141, parks.nv.gov

 

Springs Preserve

The quintessential family destination in Las Vegas, Springs Preserve greets guests with a unique, desert-themed playground, botanical garden, plenty of desert animals, and indoor museum space. Admission is $9.95 for Nevada residents and $4.95 for Nevada children ages 5-17. Admission is free for children age 4 and younger. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 702-822-7700, springspreserve.org

 

Vegas Roots Community Garden

Vegas Roots is a four-acre urban farm that offers nutrition classes, gardening instruction, and school field trips. Kids can sign up for the Lil’ Roots Gardening Club, which meets once per month and includes gardening and cooking lessons. 715 N. Tonopah Drive, 702-636-4152,
vegasroots.org

 

Wetlands Park

Wetlands ParkWetlands Park, and the accompanying Nature Center and Exhibit Hall, highlight the unique ecology of the wetland landscape. Take a stroll along one of the park’s many pathways, while keeping an eye out for local wildlife. Inside the museum, visitors will find family-friendly, interactive exhibits. 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, 702-455-7522, clarkcountynv.gov/parks

 

Boulder City

Hemenway Park

Hemenway ParkThis small community park includes playground equipment, a grassy lawn, basketball courts, pretty views of Lake Mead, and — perhaps most importantly — a resident herd of big horn sheep that likes to congregate in the shade. 401 Ville Drive, bcnv.org

 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

From hiking to boating and water sports, Lake Mead offers a wide array of nature-based activities for families. Take a hike along the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail or enjoy water sports like kayaking and canoeing. 10 Lakeshore Road, 702-293-8990, nps.gov/lake

 

Henderson

Dive Las Vegas

Believe it or not, you can learn to scuba dive or snorkel right here in Southern Nevada. Dive Las Vegas offers a variety of classes, some for kids as young as 6 years old. Classes for beginners are held at pools throughout the City of Henderson. Open water, PADI certification dives at Lake Mead are also available for participants older than age 10. Dive Las Vegas, 702-897-5111, divelasvegas.com/classdescriptions.htm

 

Ethel M. Cactus Garden

The cactus garden features 300 different species of desert plants, including cacti, succulents, and desert-loving trees and shrubs. This is an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll with youngsters who aren’t quite ready for a more intense hike. After exploring the garden, visitors can take a tour of the chocolate factory. 2 Cactus Garden Drive, 1-800-438-4356, ethelm.com

 

Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

The park is home to numerous species of birds, including migrating water fowl that gravitate to the preserve’s ponds. The best time for bird viewing is early in the morning. Binoculars are available to borrow. 350 E. Galleria Drive, 702-267-4180, cityofhenderson.com

 

Day Trips

Death Valley National Park (CA)

Hike to the top of a sand dune, stand hundreds of feet below sea level at the lowest point in North America, or enjoy stargazing at Death Valley National Park. Families can try camping or stay at one of the park’s four hotels, although Death Valley makes a reasonable day trip from Las Vegas for those who prefer the comfort of home. Always bring plenty of water. 760-786-3200, nps.gov/deva

 

Lee Canyon (NV)

Formerly known as the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, Lee Canyon offers summer activities like scenic chair-lift rides and disc golf in a picturesque, wooded locale. In winter, families can take skiing or snowboarding lessons. 6725 Lee Canyon Road, 702-385-2754, leecanyonlv.com

 

Snow Canyon State Park (UT)

Snow Canyon

This state park, located just north of St. George, Utah, features plenty of picnic areas, trails, and rock formations. Families with young children can try the relatively easy trek along the Pioneer Names Trail. Park admission is $6 per vehicle for up to eight people. 1002 Snow Canyon Drive, Ivins, UT, 435-628-2255, stateparks.utah.gov

 

Star Journey (NV)

Escape the light pollution of the city, and travel to Goodsprings, NV for stargazing near the historic Pioneer Saloon. Star Journey at Pioneer Saloon, 310 NV 161, Goodsprings, NV, 801-382-7827, starjourney.net

 

Valley of Fire State Park (NV)

In addition to being quite picturesque, this park, famous for its red rock formations, is ideal for hiking, picnicking, and rock scrambling. The Mouse’s Tank Trail is a good place for families to start, thanks to its reasonable half-mile length and soft, sandy pathway. If you look closely, you’ll find petroglyphs along the way. Admission is $10 per vehicle. Nevada residents receive a $2 discount. 29450 Valley of Fire Road, Overton, NV, 702-397-2088, parks.nv.gov/parks

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