About 45 miles NW of Vegas
A mountain. Okay, there's more to it than that including hiking trails, camp grounds, snow sports, a lodge, a resort, and more but in the end, it's a mountain about 45 minutes northwest of the Las Vegas Strip.
About an hour northwest of Las Vegas.
It depends on which of the available activities you are going to partake in. Hiking is free, camping is pretty cheap, and the snow sports stuff is on the expensive side but if you enjoy any of the above you'll probably find value here.
The snow sports activities are only open during the winter while many of the trails and camping options are only available during the summer. Weather can get nasty here so check ahead.
It's a nice place to get away from the craziness of Las Vegas.
As you're standing there, surrounding by lush forests of pine blanketed in pristine white snow appreciating the babbling brooks or waterfalls, you'd never know that the harsh desert and the even harsher (but in a different way) Las Vegas Strip are just a few miles away. Breath in the fresh air and take a moment to appreciate the scenic vistas... and then get back in the car and go find a slot machine.
Or maybe that's just me.
Although technically known as the Springs Mountain National Recreation Area, most of the locals around here call this natural wonderland Mt. charleston in honor of the more than 11,000 foot high peak that can be seen from Las Vegas. It's an outdoorsy type's dream come true with lots of hiking, rock climbing, horse back riding, camping, and snow sports activities available. Even if you aren't an outdoorsy type, it's a nice way to get away from the sometimes overwhelming Strip and all its attendant hubbub.
It's a relatively short drive - about 45 miles, give or take, from the heart of The Strip so figure approximately an hour with traffic to get there. Take I-15 north from The Strip to US-93 North and then exit at Kyle Canyon Rd. That will take you up the mountain to the main park where you'll find a visitors' center that is an absolute must-visit if for no other reason than their comprehensive map and guide to the area.
Along this road are several campgrounds and trailheads, all of which are detailed in the info you can get from the visitors' center. Trails range from "this is an invigorating walk" to "are you trying to kill me?" and along the way there are plenty of opportunities for nature gazing including flora, fauna, waterfalls, and scenic vistas. Bring a camera.
Also on Kyle Canyon Rd. is the Mount Charleston Resort and Mount Charleston Lodge. The former is a hotel and restaurant reviewed in full here and the latter is a restaurant with a bar and some cabins. Those two facilities represent the sum total of what's available once you get up here - there are no gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, or even a Starbucks so make sure you stock up on whatever you need before you hit the road.
Toward the top of Kyle Canyon is Deer Canyon Rd., a scenic highway that will lead you north to Lee Canyon Rd. where the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort is located. They have multiple runs of varying difficulty for both skiing and snowboarding (hence the name), chair lifts, equipment rental, and a snack bar. Obviously they are only open when there is snow, which is usually from November through March or early April.
I am absolutely not an oudoorsy type and I liked visiting but as indicated in the opening paragraph, I got bored quickly so if you're looking for excitement perhaps you should go to a strip club and leave this particular type of nature to those who can truly appreciate it.