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Wild in the city
Go take a walk, run or ride on these seven civic trails — right in your own neighborhood
Sure, nature beckons — but we’re often too busy to heed the call. A weekend camping trip? A leisurely daylong hike? They’re wonderful — when our crowded calendars allow it. Luckily for those of us whose hiking boots seem to gather more dust than dirt, Southern Nevada boasts an impressive network of neighborhood trails and regional parks. Here are seven of our favorites that bring a little bit of nature to your neighborhood. From brisk, invigorating jaunts to peaceful paths hidden in housing subdivisions, they’re sure to tide you over until you finally get around to tackling the south summit of Frenchman Mountain.
Desert Companion "Wild in the City" Trails Map
Pittman Wash Trail
A tree-lined stroll amid stately suburbs
If Henderson is a mild-mannered suburban dad, Pittman Wash is its alter ego, the weekend granola warrior who sleeps in, skips the morning shave and has a craft beer with lunch. The rock-and-gravel wash rolls through Hendo in various guises — now a ravine, now a natural culvert, now a placid park walk — in a strangely pleasing complement to the stately rows of stucco mansionettes that embrace it on either side. Pleasing, perhaps, because the trail partakes equally of both the wild and the tame: Pittman Wash features planted trees, asphalt paths and interpretive signs — and is lovingly watchdogged by a volunteer organization, Project GREEN — but has enough raw appeal to make you think you may get pounced on by a mountain lion (or at least bumbled into by a runner in the ecstatic throes of her iPod mix). For the best views, start at Legacy West Park on the southeast corner of Windmill Parkway and Pecos Road; it features a short interpretive walk that takes you right down into the rocks and scrub. Further east, the downhill slope offers a picturesque view of a good portion of the wash.
Look out for: A veritable living Wikipedia of desert flora — clusters of doughty creosote, desert willow spreading their fine veils and mesquite stretching their spindly branches. If you or your kids think of desert plants as an undifferentiated mass of vaguely brown scraggly things, this is the place to download a little 101 .
Beware of: Fast, oblivious runners
Ideal for: Morning or evening strollers seeking a head-clearing walk or a brisk, lung-pumping jaunt
— Andrew Kiraly
A walk — and then a scramble
You can walk it your way at the Hidden Falls Park trailhead: If you’re looking for a short, undemanding postprandial stroll amid something that sort of resembles nature, there’s a Z-shaped path up a nearby hillside; it’s also good for young kids and their grandparents. For a slightly more demanding walk, hang a left onto the flattish, relatively easy, neighborhood-adjacent trail that meanders south and offers a couple of climbable boulder formations and, at one point, a nice view of some guy’s backyard. But the real draw here is the 1.6 miles of rocky trail and loose gravel that pushes upward, then north, alongside Black Mountain and down to the Shadow Canyon trailhead. There’s a bit more up-and-down to this, and the paths aren’t manicured. Watch where you put your feet.
Look out for: The jumbled volcanic rockscape that flanks the upper trail as the wonders of Hidden Falls Park and suburban Henderson spread panoramically below; the postcard view of Las Vegas when you get along to the second half of the trail
Beware of: Near the trailhead, at least, the occasional kid on a bike barnstorming the downhills
Ideal for: Sunday strolls within easy distance of civilization; a vigorous Saturday morning pump-up — Scott Dickensheets
The Clark County Wetlands Park Trail
Birds, bugs and, oh yeah, rushing water
Here’s how cool The Clark County Wetlands Park is: Every time I stand on the bridge and watch a graceful heron standing as though in meditation at the bank of the softly churning, mist-wrapped wash as the morning sunlight veils the scene in shimmer and glint, my mind goes all haywire with cliché: I can’t believe this is in Las Vegas! What a marvel, this oasis in the desert! It feels like I’m a million miles away from the city! Wowie! And though you could easily while away a family day at The Wetlands Park, gorging your soul on the visitors’ center exhibits, interpretive signs and targeted strolling, it’s also convenient enough for an early-morning jaunt for east-siders and Hendersonians. There are myriad trails and themed walks, but my advice is to park at the Nature Center and unleash yourself upon a restorative, aimless walkabout — and take your camera for the ducks, cormorants, storks and hawks doing their National Geographic thing.
Look out for: Sometimes it pays to pause: Stop and train your eye on the green reeds just west of the bridge, where startlingly white egrets hang in their own private ultralounge
Beware of: The victim of a genetic splicing experiment gone horribly wrong, the fearsome Manaconda is said to slither through the reeds, hunting by the light of the full moon. Just kidding! The Wetlands Park is safe and scrupulously maintained.
Ideal for: Harried cityfolk who need a quick dose of Mother Nature; Instagram shutterbugs; and avid birdwatchers — AK
Flamingo Arroyo Trail
An urban hike in a concrete jungle
Not into (sardonic air quotes) “nature”? Do you like a trail that’s less about dirt than urban grit? A trail that sometimes smells funny? You’re a hardy city strider, and Flamingo Arroyo is the trail for you. This mixed bag of a route shows you several sides of the valley: For much of its length, the walk bops through concrete culverts or arches over roads via pedestrian bridges. Still, it’s interspersed with pockets of riparian dampland, too, as it winds toward its eastern terminus. It’s a tour through some of Vegas’ socio-economic strata, as well — from the dense urban setting of the Winchester neighborhood to a golf-course neighborhood near the other end.
Look out for: At the Pecos-McLeod trailhead, the artist-designed shelters are mixed with chunks of the old Stardust casino building — a piece of pool stair, a crumbling pillar. A ground plaque explains the logic.
Beware of: Trash
Ideal for: Adventurous urban wayfinders who don’t need stylized references to nature — SD
Craig Ranch Regional Park
Runners, rollerbladers and skaters welcome
Craig Ranch isn’t so much a regional park as it is a 170-acre outdoor wonderland for people of all ages and activity preferences. While grandparents snap phone pix of the little ones riding the jumbo jackrabbit in the Adventure Playground, parents can jog the 4-mile trail that loops around the park, and teenagers can work on their backside disaster in the humongous skate park. There are basketball, tennis and volleyball courts for your organized types, as well as meadows where the more right-brained can while away an afternoon. Bicycling, rollerskating, running, skateboarding and walking are allowed on paths, and pets (on leashes, of course) are welcome. Built on the former site of the Craig Ranch Golf Course on west Craig Ranch Road, the park was made possible by the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, which allowed the City of North Las Vegas to buy the land and set it aside for public use. Wisely, the city decided to offer a little something for all members of the public.
Look out for: A memorial tree garden, coming this fall
Beware of: Goose poop; the big birds love to hang out in and around the pond
Ideal for: Outings with family and/or group members who have divergent outdoor interests — Heidi Kyser
Buckskin Cliff Shadows Park
Suddenly, you’re in the Wild West
Turn to the northeast and you can hit a suburban home with a well-chucked rock. Turn to the southwest and you’re suddenly on the set of a Clint Eastwood film — the part where he roams the desolate rangeland (not when he rides into town). Buckskin Cliff Shadows Park is mere yards from the Cheyenne exit off the 215 Bruce Woodbury Memorial Beltway, and yet it feels every bit as wild as a Red Rock trail. One caveat: The trailhead isn’t obvious from the parking lot. After leaving your car, go around the retention basin to the left (south) and look for the sign that prohibits motor vehicles past that point. A piece of advice: Bring sturdy shoes. The trail is rocky like an empty riverbed. And a bonus: Horse-sightings happen here, due to the equestrian area near the parking lot.
Look out for: Coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and other wildlife
Beware of: Coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and other wildlife
Ideal for: Those who want a wilderness experience within a 90-second drive of the freeway — HK
The city cyclists’ secret freeway
First off, don’t think of the Bonanza Trail as a “trail” trail — you know, a crunchy, dirt-based path emanating with nature vibes or whatever. Instead, the Bonanza Trail is a freeway-hugging underground railroad for walkers, runners and cyclists who want to go, go, go places — which you will on this multi-miler that meanders from Bruce Trent Park on Rampart Boulevard and Vegas Drive to Bonanza High School — and serves as the nerve center for several other intersecting valley trails. You’ll spend a good portion of your time next to the 95, so if you’re put off by the quaint bucolic song of whooshing traffic, consider a cruise elsewhere. But if you like a little room on your ride or run to really lay in and go for some speed, this broad sidewalk trail won’t steer you wrong. You can access trailheads at Bruce Trent Park, Bill Briare Park on Tenaya and Washington or (deep breath) the Charlie Kellogg and Joe Zaher Sports Complex on Washington and Buffalo.
Look out for: A nice view of suburban splendor as Bonanza Trail crests a hill just west of Durango
Beware of: Cyclists going very HEY THERE MAN SLOW DOWN
Ideal for: Avid cyclists who want something close to a continuous urban ride without traffic signals and stop signs cramping their style — AK
Pick up your Desert Companion today at one of these Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice locations.
Also available at Clark County and Henderson libraries.