Las Vegas Photo Opportunities

Seize the photo opportunities

NANPA encourages responsible photography in the wild, and the Las Vegas area—home of the 2019 Nature Photography Summit—provides exciting opportunities to shoot. Here are some recommendations from our members in the area.

© Lynn Starnes

Arrow Canyon

About 70 miles north of Las Vegas, Arrow Canyon is great for desert landscapes. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. Free admission. The eastern edge of the wilderness area runs through Arrow Canyon, which is confined for about 3 miles between sheer cliffs so tall and close together that sunlight rarely reaches the bottom. The Arrow Range is thick with bighorn sheep, and there are some interesting and unusual petroglyphs along Pahranagat Wash and in Arrow Canyon. More information:

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

610 Spring Meadows Rd., Amargosa Valley, NV 89020. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, water, wildlife including pupfish and 27 endemic species, and wetlands. Best time to shoot is in the morning. This has the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert.
More information:

Clark County Wetlands Park

Just about 9 miles from the Summit hotel is a great urban wetlands park where you can walk through the cottonwood trees to a number of streams and ponds to photograph a variety of bird species including great blue herons and egrets. You may even spot a beaver or two! The park’s 210-acre Nature Preserve has miles of paved and unpaved trails for your photography adventure. The park is open from dawn to dusk daily. More information:

Death Valley National Park

The hottest, driest, and lowest national park, Death Valley is a land of extremes. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley. The majority of the park’s avifauna can be found at the low mountain springs and desert oases in February. Furnace Creek Ranch, with its diversity of habitats, is definitely a hot spot. Springs that occur at up to about 4,000 feet elevation are fairly popular wintering habitats as well. 2-hour drive from Vegas.
More information:

Desert National Wildlife Refuge

16001 Corn Creek Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89124. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (in particular desert bighorn sheep). Watch for signs. Easy to miss. Spring wildflowers are beautiful. Great trails. More information:

Henderson Bird Preserve

About 30 minutes from the Westgate, the Henderson Bird Preserve (350 E. Galleria Dr.) is home to thousands of migratory waterfowl as well as numerous resident desert birds. There are nine ponds available for birding surrounded by both paved and soft surfaces. The paved path is approximately 3/4 of a mile long and is accessible by wheelchair. The soft surfaces are mostly level and allow for easy walking. More information:

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005. About 70 miles north of Las Vegas, Lake Mead is great for desert landscapes. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. Free admission. More information:

Mt. Charleston/Spring Mountains National Recreation Area

2525 Kyle Canyon Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89124. Approximately 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, the Spring Mountains are considered a “sky island” which creates an oasis environment for cooler weather, high elevation species to thrive in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Over 25 endemic plant and animal species are found here. More information:

Red Rock Canyon

Just on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Drive away from the Las Vegas strip up Charleston Blvd, and you will pass I-215. The entrance to Red Rock Canyon is on the right a few miles further up the road. You’ll find: flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (in particular wild burros and other desert wildlife; desert tortoises; pygmy rabbits at the Visitor Center). There has also been a white sheep in the area. More information:

Valley of Fire

29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV  89040. Valley of Fire is about an hour drive (approximately 70 miles) north of Las Vegas, but is well worth the visit. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (particularly desert species). Great for desert landscapes/bright red Aztec rock formations. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. State park fee of $10 to enter. Exit east and follow Lake Mead for sheep sightings. More information:

© Lynn Starnes


“Of the areas to photograph in the Las Vegas area, Valley of Fire is my favorite! There are great formations, and I love the petroglyphs. When returning to Las Vegas, skip the interstate and go back on the road to the west of Lake Mead. If it is dry, you will see desert bighorn sheep as they travel from the desert to Lake Mead.” 

Lynn Starnes, NANPA member

7 more ideas for an extended road trip

Yosemite is approximately 6 hours northeast of Las Vegas in California. And not far from Yosemite are two lesser known gems:

Bodie State Historic Park
Hwy 270, Bridgeport, CA 93517. Bodie is northeast of Yosemite, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road (Hwy 270), seven miles south of Bridgeport. Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town, with a small part of the town’s original buildings remaining in “arrested decay.” Artifacts can be found in several buildings, and the Masonic Cemetery, Stamp Mill and Miners Union Hall— housing a museum with mining tools—are also worth noting. Great building and artifact photography. Winter hours are 9 am to 4 pm. Elevation is 8,379 ft, and the road is not plowed. Check the website or call for snow conditions and closures. More information:

Mono Lake Tufa Natural Reserve
Mono Lake Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite, near the town of Lee Vining, California. The reserve was established to preserve the spectacular “tufa towers,” calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. It is one of the rare places in the world that contain such a unique group of geologic features. The extremely high salinity and alkalinity of Mono Lake has created a rare ecosystem, supporting a complex food chain of green algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies, and more than 80 species of migratory birds. Photographers come from all over the world to capture the interplay of light on the mountains, tufa, desert, and water. The reserve is open all year, though the visitor center is closed Dec 1 to March 31. More information:

© Lynn Starnes


Lake Tahoe is approximately 7 hours from Las Vegas in northern Nevada.

Elko, Nevada/Ruby Mountains is about 7 hours north of Las Vegas in northern Nevada. Outstanding for wildlife and landscapes. More information: or

Zion and other parts of Utah are in close proximity.

Grand Canyon in Arizona is a 4-hour drive from Las Vegas.