Las Vegas has the fastest growing population of veterans in the country. Veteran in the Valley is a column focusing on the strange transition from soldier to civilian in Las Vegas and the veterans that call this city home.
Neon to Nature
If there is one thing the Army taught me (besides how to binge-drink and chain-smoke), it was definitely how to walk as a mode of transportation. All those morning “ruck marches” stick with you as you settle in to a normal civilian life again. Five miles home from work? No problem, I’ll be there in 90 minutes. The Army changes you in weird ways like that.
Las Vegas isn’t typically thought of as a “walking city” and saying that the bus system here is sub-par is being rather generous. The area where I live and work in Summerlin is far more concerned with landscaping than having consistently usable sidewalks on the main roads. That’s not to say that you can’t walk around from point A to point B out here. Honestly, it’s pretty fun.
When I first moved here and decided to start walking, I fired up Google Maps and got exploring. I quickly discovered a network of trails blazed through strip-malls and housing complexes. The Neon to Nature trails are supposedly all over the Valley, but the paths in Summerlin and surrounding areas are great. These trails either wind through areas of urban wilderness (read: golf courses and parks) or snake along next to the flood canals that crisscross the area, even providing walkways raised over the roadways, so you don’t need to deal with traffic signals or crazy drivers as you navigate.
The map that Clark County offers on the Neon to Nature website is practically unusable, only offering the approximate location where trails start, but you can look on Google Maps for bike paths and get a good picture of the interconnecting network. Where one trail ends, another can usually be found starting in close proximity. Linking these independent trails together, I can walk from work to my apartment and only be sucking in exhaust fumes for a fraction of the five-mile jaunt, and I’ll take that any day of the week.
The trails could definitely be marked better in general, as only a handful bear the Neon to Nature mile-markers to let you know you’re still on the right track, but they’re quite clean and often well-lit. They’re also largely deserted, and I feel like I get weird looks coming out of a trail onto a main street like people are asking, “I wonder what that guy was doing back THERE?” Some of the trails do seem to be placed oddly, and you’ll find yourself looking directly into people’s windows as you walk the path that was cut through their backyards.
Even with these minor problems, most of which I’m probably imagining, I still find taking the trails a pleasure. All of the paths that I’ve come across are bike- and pet-friendly, so bring the family and Fido and get out there and explore.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.