A patchwork of horse farms, hay fields, and pomegranate trees, Moapa Valley is the rural backyard of Las Vegas. Valley of Fire State Park—about 50 miles northeast of the city—is the star attraction year-round, but spring's mild temperatures make it easy to explore newer and lesser-known spots.
Powerful forces of wind and water carved the giant sedimentary rocks at Valley of Fire State Park into shapes as fantastic as an elephant's head. A half hour hike on the Fire Wave Trail leads to hypnotically undulating hills that evoke strawberries and vanilla ice cream in a parfait glass.
See the rare Moapa dace, a tiny endangered minnow, at Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge*. A viewing area below the water level of a natural stream reveals the turbulent life of this bronze-colored fish. Along various trails, you can also spot Gambel's quail, vermilion flycatchers, roadrunners, and cottontail rabbits. *The refuge is only open to the public Labor Day to Memorial Day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from sunrise to sunset.