When you think of Clark County, Nevada, you probably don’t think of natural wetlands.
But if you drive far enough east on Tropicana Avenue, you’ll come to a hidden gem of outdoor, family-friendly Las Vegas: the Clark County Wetlands Park.
The Wetlands Park has two parts: the Nature Preserve and the Duck Creek Trails. Because we spent some time walking the Nature Preserve today, I’ll talk about that.
To get to the Nature Preserve, take Tropicana east…far east. Past Eastern, Pecos, the 95/93, Mountain Vista, Boulder Highway…and keep on going. Just where Tropicana turns into Rebel Road/Broadbent Boulevard, you’ll see a few (small) signs telling you to make a left for the Wetlands Park. Make a left there, and it’s very nearby on your right.
There’s a small parking lot, with more spaces on the street. Once you park, you can spend some time in the Play Zone, which isn’t quite a playground, although it has some rock-climbing walls and concrete animals to climb on. There’s also a very handy restroom, in case someone needs to make a stop before hitting the trails.
There are two sets of connected trails that weave their way throughout Wetlands Park. One is made of concrete and is ADA-compliant, so if anyone in your group is in a wheelchair, they’ll have easy access. The other group of trails is made of decomposed granite, which is less muddy than dirt, but might be slow-going for someone in a wheelchair. It isn’t appreciably much more difficult for pushing a stroller, though.
Mostly, the Wetlands Park is a place to walk around and enjoy–again, not what most people come to Vegas to do, but most people don’t bring their small kids to Vegas. One of my favorite things about the Nature Preserve is that in most of it you can’t see anything of the rest of the city (the Eastside Cannery is what disturbs the illusion most often), so it’s easy to imagine you’re exploring a desert wash anywhere in the Western U.S.
At 210 acres, you’re not going to stroll through the entire Nature Preserve in a half-hour. It’s large and varied enough that you can easily spend more than an hour there without getting bored or feeling like you’re walking in a circle. Grab a map at the trailhead and you shouldn’t have any problem navigating your way through the Preserve. Your kids will love searching for animal tracks and animals themselves. This morning we saw several cottontail rabbits, a squirrel-type thing, turtles, fish, and birds.
One note of caution: it gets very, very hot at the Preserve, so if you’re going anytime after early April, a) go early b) bring lots of water and c) put on sunscreen before you go. There is a Shade Shelter hidden in one part of the Preserve, but you’d be surprised how hot the sun feels when you’re tramping around the trails. This is a no-frills public park, with no admission, but also no snack bar or other amenities. I suggest stopping at a convenience store (you’ll pass at least a dozen on your way down Trop) and getting whatever water and snacks you need.
Because of that, this probably isn’t a 3-4 hour, afternoon-filling activity. There’s plenty to do, but the sun will take a lot out of you and your kids. Instead, I’d suggest doing this one morning of your trip, particularly if you’re supposed to meet the rest of the family/friends your with for brunch, and need something to do with the kids for a while in the morning. Figure on it taking about 30 minutes to get there from the Strip, and the same going back, and you can easily work this in before meeting up at 11 or later.
One more note: the official policy is that dogs are not permitted, since they tend to disrupt the wildlife, so leave Fido at home.
The Nature Preserve is at 7050 E. Wetlands Park Lane, Las Vegas, Nevada 89122. It is open from dawn until dusk throughout the year.