Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Down for a longer drive? The Ruby Mountains, aka “Nevada’s Alps,” are near Elko, which is seven hours from Las Vegas. The fall color is known to be spectacular.
Autumn is the sweet spot for Las Vegas weather. As cold grips the air across the country, our nights get supple and our days milder. The downside to all of that temperate bliss? Some would say it’s the lack of a real turn from summer to fall.
True, the desert’s take may not warrant a postcard, but there are places not far from the city center to see vibrant fall color, fat pumpkins and other signatures of the season.
Pahrump Valley Winery
1 hour from Las Vegas
Fall isn’t just about drinking pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. It’s about stomping fruit that will become wine. The grape stomp is a seasonal tradition at the Pahrump winery, a two-day event that features live music, comfort food and a stage full of buckets where registered stompers crush the sweet juices out of the vineyard’s bounty. At this year’s edition Oct. 7-8, teams of stompers competed for T-shirts and certificates (not to mention grape-infused tennis shoes). The team that pummeled the most grapes in 2 minutes won, with second and third place also getting prizes and trophies awarded for best costume and worst stomper. So for next year, remember that throwing this contest might still be a win. (With the accompanying wine sale, everybody wins.)
Downtown Brew Festival
In downtown Las Vegas
While Oktoberfest wrapped up last week in Germany, Las Vegas likes to keep the beer love going all month. Motley Brews’ sixth annual fest promises live music, great eats and seasonal craft beer under the stars. On Oct. 21, it will transform the Clark County Government Center into a wonderland of 200-plus beers from more than 60 breweries. Fourteen Nevada outfits will be pouring, from Reno’s Record Street Brewing Co. to Las Vegas’ Banger, Lovelady, Hop Nuts and Crafthaus. Food offerings range from Indian and Mexican to Japanese, though fresh doughnuts might be the most fall-appropriate substance you could pair with that Banger Coppertale.
Floyd Lamb Park
22 minutes from Las Vegas
This 680-acre park was built around an oasis, so the vegetation is lush. Stands of oak and cottonwood trees shade small lakes with green in the summer and deep gold in the fall that looks molten when these leaves catch the light. If they inspire you to learn more about local trees, Floyd Lamb houses the Las Vegas State Tree Nursery, which produces more than 100,000 plants from 100 species annually.
45 minutes from Las Vegas
The Spring Mountains are known for their ancient bristlecone pines, but autumn sees quaking aspens steal the show. The Mount Charleston area is the place to spot brilliant yellow, gold and orange dotted among the dark green, whether on a hike on the South Loop Trail in Kyle Canyon or driving to the lodge for hot cocoa while A/Cs are still cranking down in the valley. On smooth, white trunks, aspen branches hold heart-shaped leaves prone to dancing in the tiniest breeze. The sight and sound are lovely, and can be found in Lee and Deer Creek canyons too.
20 minutes from Las Vegas
The farm’s 60 acres take on a holiday feel starting Sept. 30 each year, when the pumpkin patch opens to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Run through the rows looking for a perfect carver for Halloween or a pristine beauty to guard your doorstep until it’s about time for a Christmas tree. And after that, stop by the farm stand for the signature item — apple cider. It’s made with three types of gala grown onsite and nothing else, so the flavor is beautifully true to the fruit (which involves no pesticides, wax or preservatives). And to really hammer the fall feeling, take a free wagon ride.
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
1.5 hours from Las Vegas
Swap the palm trees for cottonwoods, and you have the oasis that is Pahranagat. Springs north of the refuge feed marshes, lakes and ‘wet meadows’ where all kinds of birds make their homes. Those migrating from the tropics, including Bullock’s oriole, the yellow warbler and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, enjoy the tall cottonwood trees on the shorelines. Fall-color hunters enjoy their brilliant yellow leaves, which on windless days are doubled by their reflections across the water. It’s worth the drive, especially because you might see Mojave rabbitbrush sporting a similar shade along the roadside.
The Farm Fall Harvest Festival
20 minutes from Las Vegas
Through Halloween, the farm on Grand Teton Drive is celebrating fall with bumper crops of squash and curated pumpkins — for baking, carving or making holiday displays — as well as a market selling jams, eggs, honey and artisan breads. Costs vary for concessions and rides on ponies, an antique tractor and something called a “cow train,” with festival entry $3 to $5. Every cent of money raised by the fest goes to The Farm’s Barn Buddies Rescue for abused animals. It’s open Fridays through Sundays and Oct. 30-31.