Great Runs in Las Vegas

The best advice for running in Las Vegas is “rent a car”. Seriously, if like the millions of annual visitors to Las Vegas you are staying on the Strip, your options are limited. Between the brutally hot weather, the fact that along the Strip you often have to go through a mall or casino in order to cross the street, and the concrete jungle immediate around the Strip, I would not call this a great running city. However, if you go early to beat the sun or the crowds, running the Strip is at least a unique experience. The best section for running the Strip from the main hotels such as the Venetian is to head north. For access to more run-able downtown and some residential areas, stay at the southern end of the Strip so you can access E. Harmon Ave and the UNLV campus, or downtown, which is at least run-able if not scenic. Once outside the city, your running options multiply and are really interesting. Red Rock Canyon is 20 minutes away and is spectacular. The Historic Railroad Tunnel trail, connecting Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, is an iconic run. There is also good running in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson.

Topgraphically, Las Vegas is flat but there are some great hills and canyons for challenging trail running within 10–20 miles of the city. And as for the weather, this is the desert. Temps from May-September exceed 100 degrees almost daily. Please use caution — go early, use sunscreen, and hydrate, folks! Winters are more moderate and nights/early mornings can be cool.

The Iconic Routes

  1. The Strip
  2. Downtown Las Vegas
  3. University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV)
  4. Red Rock Canyon
  5. Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail
Las Vegas Running Overview

The Routes

The Strip

3.3 miles One-Way from Las Vegas Blvd. & W. Tropicana Blvd. (MGM Grand) to W. Sahara Blvd. (SLS Hotel). MAP

Well, this can be said about running on the Strip: it’s a one-of-a-kind run. This run goes the length of The Strip (also known as Las Vegas Blvd.), which will take you by many of the the spectacular hotels and sights of The Strip, such as The Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and so on. One frustration about running The Strip is that at several points (not reflected on the map), there is not an actual pedestrian crossing — you have to go up a stairway or through a building to get back to the street. A couple of other pieces of advice about running the Strip: go early, to beat the crowds and the heat; the west side sidewalk is wider; and the distance between the buildings is deceiving — much longer than it seems. The best section of the Strip for running, in my view, is from the main hotels around Caesars, the Venetian, etc. and heading north, toward downtown. The crowds think out and there are fewer crossings and interruptions. The neighborhood gets a bit sketchy just south of the Stratosphere. One option is to run one-way, 3.3 miles from the MGM Grand, to SLS, and pick up the monorail for the return.

Side Roads Off the Strip

The Strip can be maddening for running, due to crowds and the lack of seamless pedestrian crossings. There are no pretty side roads or parks off or near the strip, but the best bets for running just off the strip are: E. Harmon Ave., heading east toward UNLV; E. Desert Inn Rd; Koval Ln; and Dean Martin Rd. toward, on the west side of Rt. 15, though you have to get across Rt. 15. Again, none of these are charming but you can at least get the steps in.

E. Harmon Ave. and University of Las Vegas

5.7 miles. Start: Las Vegas Blvd. & E. Harmon Ave. (near Bally’s). MAP

This is the best option for getting off the Strip. E. Harmon is near the Bally’s and Aria hotels. Run about 1.2 miles east, along the wide sidewalk. E. Harmon leads into the UNLV campus, which is quite pleasant for running. There are numerous paths and interesting buildings. Prettiest is “North Mall” — no cars! trees! At the northwestern most section of campus (near ‘the mall’) is the athletic complex and outdoor track. Our route takes you along some of the main pathways of the campus, but of course you can improvise your own route.

Downtown Las Vegas

3.6 mile LOOP. Start: Las Vegas Blvd. and Fremont St. MAP

Downtown Las Vegas is more run-able than the Strip, in the sense that once can actually cross the street. While not exactly bucolic, running downtown gives a sense of the “Old Las Vegas”, which slid into decline with the development of the Strip but has come back some over the past 10 years. Downtown is about 2 miles north of some of the northernmost sections of the Strip (Stratosphere Hotel), and can also be reached by bus. Our route begins on Fremont St., with some cool old neon signs, through some residential areas with a combination 1950s/1960s typical Las Vegas homes, and lawyers’ offices/pawn shops. The route concludes with the ‘Fremont Street Experience’ pedestrian mall, and some of Vegas’ original hotels such as the Golden Nugget.

Las Vegas Residential

The best option for running off of The Strip and Main St. is the residential neighborhood accessible from the southern end of the Strip. This is the area between E. Sahara Ave. and east of Las Vegas Blvd., to E. Charleston Blvd. and west of Fremont St. Some sections are a bit dodgy but it is generally OK.

Sunset Park

Just south of McCarran airport is Sunset Park. Not easily accessible by foot from downtown Las Vegas or the Strip, but it’s the closest ‘green space’ to the city. There’s a small pond with a perimeter path and it’s easy to put together 2–3 miles on the trails within the park. Some paved, some not paved.

Red Rock Canyon

Scnenic Drive: 13 mile loop road Paved. Start: 
Park Brochure with trail info and distances. Note: entrance fee req.

Red Rock Canyon is a great way to experience running in the Mojave Desert, only 17 miles from the Strip. This 185,000 acre National Conservation Area 30 miles of trails, dirt roads, (many of them run-able), and a 13-mile Scenic Drive loop. There are beautiful views, and the light hitting the rocks, especially early or late in the day, is a sight to see. Your best bet is to park and choose a section of the loop road, or one of the trails. The 6-mile White Rock Loop, and the 11-mile Grand Circle Loop are popular trail runs. Note: restrooms, but few other facilities once inside the park. Bring water. This is a great running destination if you have the time — and a car.

Union Pacific Railroad Trail

6.35 miles ONE-WAY. Paved. Start: northern terminus at Acacia Park. MAP

This suburban rail trail runs along alongside an active railroad, separated by a fence. The northern terminus is Acacia Park in Henderson, 15 miles southeast of Las Vegas. This trail also connects with the suburban bike trail, which connects to I-215 closer to Las Vegas. It’s a favorite of the Red Rock Running Company’s group runs.

Further Afield

Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail

3.5 miles ONE-WAY. Gravel. Start: Hoover Dam parking garage or Lake Meade Visitor Ctr. MAP. More info on River Mountains Loop Trail

If you have the time and a car, it’s about a 1/2 hour drive to the Lake Meade/Hoover Dam area, which is very much worth seeing. It’s also the site of a wonderful run: the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, which runs 3.5 miles one-way between the Lake Meade Visitor Center and Hoover Dam. The original railroad was used to transport materials in the building of Hoover Dam. There are five tunnels and numerous sites along this flat, gravel trail. The trail is part of the 32-mile River Mountains Loop Trail. More info.

Mt. Charleston

35 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Numerous trail options. INFO

A significant mountain, rising from 3,000 to 12,000 feet. 52 miles of trails featuring trees like juniper, mountain mahogany, Aspen and Ponderosa pine. In summer, it is significantly cooler than Las Vegas. In winter, there can be snow…and skiing. Many of the hiking trails are run-able. For experienced, endurance trail runners, there are the North Loop and South Loop trails. This link has good info on the numerous trail options.

Valley of Fire State Park

6 miles from Lake Meade and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Information.

This is another opportunity to access some desert/red rock trail running. It’s 6 miles from Lake Meade and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. A great destination if you’re near Lake Meade or on your way to Zion National Park. Note: bring water. No facilities whatsoever (as I painfully discovered on one hot hike/run).


STAY

Most of the signature hotels in Las Vegas are located on the Strip. The most elaborate ones, such as the Bellagio and the Wynn, are toward the southern end of the Strip. If you are determined to run in Las Vegas and want to avoid the Strip, try to stay at one of the hotels (Bally’s, Aria on the Strip, Hard Rock Hotel, Alexis Park on E. Harmon Ave.) near E. Harmon Ave., which is decent for running and takes you over to the UNLV campus. Another option, if you don’t need to be right in Las Vegas, is to stay at the Red Rock Casino Hotel, 17 miles away. They have great rooms, restaurants, a nice pool and fitness center, and are within a few minutes of Red Rock Canyon (car required). Among the Strip hotels, the ones with the best fitness centers are: Bellagio, Wynn, Mandalay Bay, Aria. There’s also a Canyon Ranch at the Palazzo hotel. Most of these hotels charge a (mandatory) resort fee.

Near Henderson and Hoover Dam, there’s a great Westin resort with excellent fitness facilities and proximity to fabulous running opportunities.

Run Stores and Group Runs

On the Strip, there are outlets of some of the major chains such as Nike and Puma. Red Rock Running Company is the main running store game in town, with suburban locations in Summerlin (Red Rock), Henderson, and Cheyenne.

Stores by area:

  • STRIP: Fashion Show Mall. Across from the Wynn. Major chains such as Finish Line, Puma, Lululemon, Champs Sports, and Sketchers. The Forum Shops at Caesers. Nike Store
  • Downtown: Nike Factory Store (also near airport)
  • Las Vegas South Premium Outlets. Just south of airport. Nike & New Balance Factory Stores.
  • Summerlin/Red Rock Area: Red Rock Running Company
    Group Runs: Thursdays 6pm from store.
  • Henderson Area: Red Rock Running Company
    Group Runs: Tuesday 5:30am, Wednesday 6pm, Saturdays 6:30am (more experienced runner) from store.

Las Vegas Runners is the major running group in the area. Very active group with meetup page.

Las Vegas Running Tours


Events

There is a very active running scene in Las Vegas with multiple events every week. Event Calendar.

Major Events

Rock ‘N Role Marathon and Half. November. This is a unique one. “Strip at Night”.

Running with the Devil. A race in the Mojave Desert designed to test heat endurance.