The Best Vegas-Area National Parks, Caves, and Deserts to Do Drugs In

Red Rock, Zion, and other mind-blowing natural wonderlands can help you make the most of your trip.

A slew of glitzy, trashy, action-packed, and generally thrilling ways to spend your days and nights in Sin City. Hit the ATM and follow us.

To the uninitiated, Las Vegas may seem a gateway to Hell (aka, spending the equivalent of a month’s rent on craps and the world’s most decadent brunches). But there is heaven if you know where to look. The landscape that surrounds the city is a visual feast: red rocks, snowy peaks, hardy desert flowers, and rolling sand dunes stretch out beneath the blistering blue sky in nearby national and state parks, conservation areas, sick hiking trails, and campgrounds—all less than a day’s drive away. 

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This is a different type of Vegas guide. It’s a guide for the type of nature-head who’s looking to put the “trip” in “road trip,” someone interested in ingesting substances like psilocybin, cannabis, MDMA, or LSD to enhance the experience of hiking, camping, or being driven around and looking out the window. 

But first, some essential advice before heading into the desert: 

  • Bring a ton of water, because you will be fistfighting the sun and losing. Aim for more than the typical hot-weather four cups per adult, per hour minimum for however long you anticipate spending outside.
  • Never take mind-altering substances and drive. It’s illegal, selfish, and unwise, especially in an unfamiliar desert. 
  • Don’t go alone. Take this trip with people you trust, and designate a sober person if you’re walking a new-to-you route or planning on a day trip versus an overnight campout. 
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing and shoes actually designed for hiking on rocky trails.Carry layers, too, because the desert temperature can seriously dip at night. 
  • Bring food, especially because rest stops and towns can be few and far between, or may close early in the evening. 

For more detailed recommendations as well as some pretty cool firsthand accounts, we spoke with VICE readers who’ve had ecstatic experiences in the Vegas wilderness. Here’s their take on what to take and (what outdoors gear to take with you) if you want to do drugs in the shadow of the Strip. 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon | Photo by Michele D'Amico supersky77 via Getty Images

Red Rock Canyon is a beautiful jutting vista chock full of red rocks and regular colored rocks, too. Expect 100-degree summer heat as you drag your bod through the two dozen hiking and riding trails that snake through 200-million-year-old sandstone. If you’re really lucky, you might get to hang with Jackson, the “jovial and witty” official burro of Red Rock Canyon.

Travel time from the Strip: 15 miles, or approximately 30 minutes driving.

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 “Red Rock has so many visually crazy structures and colors—it’s perfect for a mushroom trip. I usually microdose mushrooms and go hike Turtlehead Peak for a good workout. It’s a tough trail with great views but can be done fairly quickly. The trail is not shaded, so wearing long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses are key.

If you’re planning to do a fully psychedelic trip, go a couple hours before the sun is setting, bring water and a headlamp, and don’t venture too far from your vehicle. Have someone who isn’t tripping be your trail guide; feeling lost while tripping is not fun, so it’s important to have someone  sober who can calm your nerves and assure you it’s going to be OK.” –Zach, 29, Las Vegas, NV 

“The night sky in the desert is magical. You have to drive a ways away from the city to get away from the light pollution, but once you get far enough out the stars look amazing. You can hardly tell where the sky meets the earth… granted, that could've been because I was tripping on shrooms. If you have or know anyone who has a truck, the best set up is to bring a wrestling mat, put it in the truck bed, and just lay down under the stars.” –Holly, 24, Reno, NV

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (aka Mt. Charleston)

Mt. Charleston | Photo by LPETTET via Getty Images

People visit the 60 miles of trails at Mt. Charleston for their towering pine forests, elevations exceeding 10,000 feet, summer lightning storms, year-round snow, and America’s first and only Cold War memorial. Stick around through the day’s moody weather for the best star-gazing west of the Mississippi.

Travel time from the Strip: Around 15 to 20 miles, approximately 30 minutes driving. 

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“One of the first times I did acid was at Mount Charleston. I would say it is one of the best places to visit nature here in Vegas because it snows in the winter, which is when I visited. I enjoyed experiencing the sight and feeling of the beautiful snow outside, along with seeing the stars and moon. I even got to see a wild horse on the way home, which was the highlight of my night.” –Maddy, 22, Las Vegas, NV

Last summer, I hiked Mt. Charleston’s Little Falls Trail on magic mushrooms. My vision was heightened and the noise was on hyper drive. I loved smelling all the smells of the trail. Once we got to the waterfall… holy smokes, was it so incredibly relaxing.” –Tyson, 36, Las Vegas, NV

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park | Photo by Gabe Farnsworth via Getty Images

Time travel isn’t real yet (which is annoying) but with its Aztec sandstone arches to a trailside display of petrified wood, Valley of Fire is about as close as it gets. The state park has 24-hour campground access, massive petroglyphs (think cave paintings imprinted on red sandstone), and—thank God!—wi-fi.

Travel time from the Strip: Around 50 miles, approximately one hour driving. 

“I felt like I was traversing through constantly shifting impressionist paintings. Cacti seemed to wave as I passed, and the animals (primarily geckos and birds) I saw seemed so at peace within their habitat, even in their struggle for survival. The shifting colors and hues of reds, yellows, deep tans, and browns were also gorgeous, and the psilocybin only accentuated them to a noticeably brighter degree. I also loved the drive back once the sun began to set and Vegas’s light pollution started to shimmer in the distance. If you want the best experience, I recommend going in April and May. —Jake, 23, Tulsa, OK

Zion National Park

Mt. Zion | Photo by Putt Sakdhnagool via Getty Images

If you’re into river rapid wading, scenic drives, and rock formations with names like “Towers of the Virgin,” (and who isn’t?) look no further than Zion National Park. Be warned: The park gets slammed fast, so arrive early, pack a lunch, and spend the day wandering among the sandstone peaks.

Travel time from the Strip: Around 160 miles, approximately 3 hours driving.

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“The first night in town we did a bit of blow and just wandered around the city—no one in our group really felt safe being indoors for too long at the time, [November 2020], so we did a LONG walk from the strip to Old Vegas and back again. The next day we ordered enough Tacos El Gordo for a large family, ate some molly and headed towards Zion. (We had a safe/sober driver!) We found a campsite on Bureau of Land Management land maybe an hour or so outside of town, set up camp, ate some more molly, and just had a blast. We brought multiple packs of glow stick jewelry to play with once it got dark.

The views were incredible and completely enhanced by the molly. Most importantly for us, we were there in November, so the heat during the day was completely reasonable, and we were prepared to be cold at night, so we had the right gear to be comfortable.” —Courtney, 33, Pittsboro, NC

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon | Photo by Rod Vamosi via Getty Images

Bryce Canyon’s gravity-defying, time-molded “hoodoos” earn the title for the freakiest natural formations in the Great Basin. These gaunt pillars of stone are an eye-popping reward for people who make the scorching trek to one of the desert’s most remote attractions.  

Travel time from the Strip: Around 260 to 340 miles, approximately four to five hours driving.

“My bestie and I did a road trip this past March for five days from Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. We got our weed from Vegas and enjoyed smoking it in nature. The national parks were definitely breathtaking. Feeling tiny in the vastness of nature made us remember how impermanent we are.

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We literally experienced four seasons during those days. I'd definitely recommend bringing reusable water bottles, sunscreen, power banks, hiking boots, hats, shades and a heattech sweater or hoodie since it gets chilly up in the Bryce Canyon area. If you’re staying in a remote area, do your research—our Airbnb was secluded in nature and we couldn't find anywhere open to eat after 7 p.m.” —Ece, New York City, New York

Bonus: Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden at Mirage Las Vegas | Photo by Ethan Miller via Getty Images

This wild attraction in the heart of Vegas includes face time with a supremely odd combination of live big cats and bottlenose dolphins. It’s a man-made jungle habitat, including live white lions and white tigers that are part of the legacy of the late magicians Siegfried & Roy.

Travel time from the Strip: No time at all—it’s at The Mirage.

“Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden is the closest you can get to a tropical oasis without leaving the Las Vegas strip. [My husband and I] received free passes to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and thought it would be the best place to drop acid and vibe out for the afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed the change of scenery and spent a few hours trying to telepathically communicate with the family of dolphins that were housed there. As someone who doesn’t like to see animals in captivity, it was hard to see some of the tigers. I get in my feelings when I’m tripping, and I felt sad enough about the tigers that it almost ruined my trip.

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As we were heading out, we noticed a fabulously dressed gentleman with a crowd of people around him. We heard that Siegfried frequented the garden, however, we never expected to see him ourselves. He was taking photographs with the patrons when he asked, ‘Who else?’ As I stepped forward, I noticed that there was an elderly woman who was also heading that way. Like any decent human, I told her that she should take the picture. She responded graciously and stepped forward to take the photo. A second later I heard some lady croak, ‘There’s actually a line, so you can go wait.’ There was clearly no line, but I was embarrassed and on drugs, so instead of attracting more attention, I walked off.

I didn’t get more than a few feet before I heard Siegfried yell, ‘WAIT!’ He grabbed my hand and looked the woman in the eye and said, ‘I saw her here earlier today, she has been waiting longer than everyone.’ I thanked him for his time and kindness, and he pointed at my husband’s wrist and said, ‘You better look out for this one, he has luck in veins,’ as he pulled a gold coin out of thin air. It was one of the most magical experiences! Not only did I meet the man responsible for the best-selling show in Las Vegas history, I did it while tripping hard.”  –Nimra, 27, Fullerton, California

Mira Sydow and Nami Saito contributed reporting to this story.

Katie Way is a senior staff writer at VICE. Follow her on Twitter.

This story is part of The VICE Guide to Las Vegas, a no-holds-barred journey through the skanky desert jewel of the U.S.A. 

Tagged:

Drugs, Mushrooms, LAS VEGAS, acid, national parks, nature, red rock, the vice guide to las vegas

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