Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Just 16 miles west of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is an outdoor paradise filled with deep canyons, American Indian petroglyphs, and towering red sandstone peaks, not to mention rock climbing opportunities galore. Embark on a drive or a bike ride along the 13-mile Scenic Drive for an overview of the landscape. Not only does it wind through open deserts and among sky-scraping cliffs, but it also provides access to a visitor center, stops such as High Point Overlook—which at 4,771-feet is Red Rock’s highest site—and many of the canyon’s more than two-dozen hiking trails.
Though challenging, Red Rock’s 2.2-mile Calico Tanks hike results in a hidden water pocket (a natural bowl of water at the foot of a cliff) and prime Vegas views. Or opt for the 2.4-mile Keystone Thrust trail, a moderately difficult trek that shows exposed sections of the Pacific and North American continental plates in a display of limestone layers over buff-colored sandstone.
Finish up your day with from-scratch fare, including pizzas topped with truffles and gouda, at Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, an easy drive east via West Charleston Boulevard.
Glendo State Park, Wyoming
About an hour-and-a-half drive north of Cheyenne, Glendo State Park is a serene getaway of pine and cedar forest, wetlands, and mountain scenery surrounding a 12,000-acre reservoir. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound, whether it’s taking a boat out to fish for walleye, relaxing on the reservoir’s 1.5 miles of beachy shoreline, or swimming in the waters off of Glendo’s Shelter Point. Deer, antelope, and coyotes make their home among the park’s 47 miles of multi-use hiking and biking trails. If you’d rather stretch your legs than lounge, the Broken Bow and Buffalo Run Loop is an easy 6.4 mile trek that meanders mostly through shade.
The tiny town of Glendo is the perfect spot for fueling up with restaurants like Kim’s Family Restaurant, where jalapeño Swiss burgers and French dip sandwiches are the norm, or the aptly named Old West Saloon, Steakhouse & Liquor Store, which serves up mouthwatering barbecue ribs with a side of Cowboy nostalgia.