With a wide range of shows, comedic acts and gaming options, it’s easy to overlook the scenic, rugged side of Laughlin. This entertainment-driven town along the banks of the Colorado River also has its share of off-the-beaten-path experiences not far from the hotel corridor. For those looking to get away from the daily grind or simply enjoy an outing that includes nature or history, consider the following six experiences.
Christmas Tree Pass … and then some
Picturesque canyon walls, lakes, and rich wildlife await as you turn into the entrance of Christmas Tree Pass, only seven miles west of Laughlin. A 45-minute drive along a graded dirt road from Nevada State Route 163 to Nevada State Route 95 offers wondrous desert views. Check the Nevada Public Safety’s website for road conditions. At certain times of the year, a vehicle with higher clearance may be needed.
An unmarked but easily-found side road takes you to parking areas and a trailhead, where, with just a brief quarter-mile walk, you arrive at Grapevine Canyon, a great spot for hiking and sights of bighorn sheep. There’s also a natural spring and Spirit Mountain - the highest peak in the area’s Newberry Mountain range - rises to 5,639 feet above petroglyph-encrypted canyon walls. Spirit Mountain is considered to be among the earliest native lands in the area and is found on the National Register of Historic Places.
Colorado River Museum
The Lil’ Red Schoolhouse, built in 1947 for children of dam construction workers, was relocated in 2015 from Davis Dam to the new Colorado River Museum campus only 2.3 miles south of the Laughlin Bridge. Visitors can view historical memorabilia depicting early life on the Colorado River as well as ancient artifacts from the local Mojave Indian tribe. The museum’s video room also explains how the pre-Civil War U.S. Army trained with camels in the area. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. knowledgeable volunteers are on hand to answer questions.
The Oatman difference
The tiny town of Oatman is located along the Historic Route 66, east of Laughlin, where the residents work to keep the former gold mining town as authentic as possible. Visitors can witness staged gunfights, enjoy local food and gift shops and learn about the town’s storied history. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard briefly stayed in Oatman after they eloped, and the town has also been the perfect backdrop for classic Western films. Many who venture to Oatman also spend the day enjoying the friendly feral burros who roam into town to enjoy a snack, sometimes from the hands of visitors and locals.
Keepers of the Wild Animal Park
If you’re up for a brief car ride, Keepers of the Wild Animal Park, a nature park and wild animal sanctuary can be found just over an hour east of Laughlin, in Arizona. Located along the historic Route 66, Keepers of the Wild is home to rescued tigers, bears, wolves and numerous other animals. Founder Jonathan Kraft is a former Las Vegas performer who shifted from working with animals in shows to rescuing them. His story attracts thousands of people to his sanctuary every year.
Just a couple miles upstream from Laughlin, you’ll find Davis Dam. Completed in 1953, the dam supplies Laughlin and its surrounding areas with hydroelectric power. The earth and rock-filled embankment encase Lake Mohave, which is also bordered by the natural beauty of the Pyramid, Painted, Eldorado and Black canyons. Laughlin visitors enjoy recreational opportunities at Lake Mohave like boating, fishing, camping and picnicking. Some enjoy parking near the dam and walking to the top for spectacular views.
To learn about all Laughlin has to offer, go to visitlaughlin.com.