Las Vegas Day Trips – 16 Worth the Drive

A few days spent mingling among the shows and slot machines of the Entertainment Capital of the World may leave you longing for a break in the fresh air. Luckily, many natural wonders are just a day trip away from Las Vegas!

If your Las Vegas trip schedule is tight and you want to spend some time away from the famous Las Vegas Strip, no worries! There are so many fascinating destinations that are only a few hour’s driving distance to Las Vegas. Day trips from Las Vegas can take you to exciting places like national parks, beautiful canyons, and culture-filled cities.       

Choose any day trip from Las Vegas, and you’ll find one breathtaking photo stop after another. Gorgeous desert scenes and cooler mountain escapes are yours to discover in this beautiful area. Keep reading to decide which of these Las Vegas day trips will quench your thirst for adventure!

Grand Canyon National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 4 hours and 12 minutes, 275 miles

If a day trip to Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is on your bucket list, now’s your chance to visit! It’s just a short four-hour driving distance to Vegas — and worth every minute. Make the most of your trip to the grand by the sweeping views that photos can’t do justice, and a myriad of outdoor activities, like hiking and kayaking, are all reasons to visit this acclaimed landscape. So, cross this item off your list when you take a day to explore the park!

If you don’t feel like driving, visiting the Grand Canyon through guided tours will allow you to hop on a south rim bus or even take a helicopter flight! Simply sit back and enjoy the ride.

Reserve your spot on a Maverick Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour for the daredevils among us. On top of epic views, you’ll get an adrenaline rush from flying high above the ground. Want the views without the rush? The Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tour may be more your speed.

view of the grand canyon from the south rim
photo credit: Omer Nezih Gerek via Unsplash

Hoover Dam

Distance from Las Vegas: 39 minutes, 37 miles

Close to nearby Boulder City, the Hoover Dam is an iconic landmark. Take a tour of this magnificent man-made structure by reserving your place on a Hoover Dam Bus Tour. Hoover Dam tours include expert narration, a snack, photo opportunities, hotel pick-up and drop-off, and so much more.

Since there is just a short distance from Vegas Strip to Hoover Dam, you’ll have plenty of time in the day to explore the area. Take the chance to learn more about the dam’s history, along with the notable people who made the dam possible. 

View looking at the Hoover Dam from the surrounding rocks on a sunny day with clouds in the sky near Las Vegas, Nevada, USALake Mead

Distance from Las Vegas: 40 minutes, 32 miles

Another top destination to include in your driving trips from Las Vegas is the ever-famous Lake Mead, which was formed as a result of the Hoover Dam.  You can easily check out both locations in one day. Fed by the Colorado River, this man-made lake is known as the largest reservoir in the United States in regard to water capacity. While at the lake, visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, fishing, boating, and water skiing. 

Visit the Lake Mead Visitor Center before exploring the area to orient yourself. View a map, talk with rangers, watch an award-winning film, and know exactly where to drive in Vegas. 

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Additionally, you can take in views of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam at the same time on the Hoover Dam VIP Tour. Possible wildlife sightings include Bighorn Sheep at a park!    

Wide shot of the Hoover Dam in the daylight with the bridge in the background and very blue water in the reservoir in Las Vegas, Nevada
photo credit: Ryan Thorpe via Unsplash

Death Valley National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours and 16 minutes, 130 miles

Located right on the border of Nevada and California, Death Valley National Park is one of the places to visit within 3 hours of Las Vegas. The national park is home to a multitude of sights and activities. The Badwater Basin’s salt flats, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and the ghost town are some of the coolest locations.

Photo Alert: Star Wars fans might recognize this park as Tatooine! The national park was used as a backdrop in Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, and Star Wars Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. Include this in your list of short trips from Las Vegas, and don’t miss a chance to snap a picture so you can brag to everyone about walking in the footsteps of beloved characters like Chewbacca.

Consider maximizing your day trips from Vegas by signing up for an immersive Death Valley Tour. Tours stop at the park’s major landmarks, offer excellent sightseeing opportunities, and also feature narration from expert tour guides.

street and mountains in the background in Death Valley National Park near Las Vegas, Nevada, USARhyolite Ghost Town

Distance from Las Vegas: 1 hour and 57 minutes, 123 miles

Feeling brave? Look into one of the places to visit near Vegas by car and stop at Rhyolite Ghost Town while you’re out exploring Death Valley National Park. You may come face-to-face with the paranormal if you dare!

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Rhyolite was a thriving gold mining town in the early 1900s but came crashing down due to the 1907 financial crisis. Today, you can roam the abandoned city’s streets, view buildings like the bank, and hear more about the town’s residents. There’s even a house constructed of glass bottles! 

ghostly statues on a platform that are part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Ryolite Ghost Town, Nevada, USA
photo credit: Only In Nevada via Facebook

Area 51

Distance from Las Vegas: 1 hour and 20 minutes, 88 miles

Do you believe that aliens exist? Regardless of your opinions on the extraterrestrial, a day trip to Area 51 woven with mystery and conspiracy is one for the books! 

Area 51 is a highly classified United States Air Force facility, also known as Homey Airport. Due to the facility’s security and secretive nature, conspiracy theories about aliens, UFOs, and other outer space studies abound. As a result, the area has become a tourist destination for those hoping to glimpse some alien activity.     

In fact, you can even take an Area 51 tour! Take a seat in a comfy SUV and discover all the hidden secrets, conspiracy theories, and firsthand stories of strange happenings at Area 51. Whether the true purpose of Area 51 is fact or fiction, it’s a fun way to spend a day in the top destination among the short drives from Las Vegas!

Zion National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours and 38 minutes, 160 miles

Take a break from Nevada when you explore one of the stunning places to drive to from Las Vegas. The trip to the park is just one of the few places to see near Las Vegas by car, and totally feasible to make in one day!

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Serving as Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park is filled with gorgeous sandstone cliffs. A visit here is a fantastic way to combine a history lesson with an outdoor adventure.

As you explore the park’s trails, canyons, and rivers, you’ll be left in absolute awe of the area’s natural beauty. The park also hosts a variety of ranger-led activities for those who prefer more structured days. Participate in museum talks, guided walks, and more, all led by expert park rangers.

family of three hiking through mountains and trails in Zion National Park near Las Vegas, Nevada, USALos Angeles, California

Distance from Las Vegas: 4 hours and 26 minutes, 271 miles

Travel from one city of glitz and glamour to another when you visit Los Angeles, California, for a day. While Hollywood is a little over four hours away, there are numerous flights to and from each city every day. You can opt to drive or fly for your day trip excursion.

This will allow you to get away from the desert and spend some time by the ocean for a change! If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll encounter a celebrity or two. Take advantage of the ample beaches, theme parks, and free things to do while you’re there. 

Pro Tip: If you want to enjoy the longer scenic route, take Route 66! While this famous roadway doesn’t connect directly to Las Vegas, you can take a detour to the road and journey on it part of the way.

View from the Runyon Canyon Park Trail overlooking downtown Los Angeles, California USA
photo credit: Nuttakan Bamrungrot via Facebook

Red Rock Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 24 minutes, 16 miles

A list of day trips from Las Vegas wouldn’t be complete without Red Rock Canyon. Just under a half-hour away, this outdoor nature conservancy features plenty of things to do within 50 miles of Las Vegas for visitors to enjoy.

 

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Truly one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas by car. There are many ways to take in the beauty of the park. Embark on the 13-mile scenic drive, explore endless hiking trails, or keep an eye out for wildlife. If you decide to hike, a few trails are Pine Creek Canyon (level: easy-moderate), Calico Hills (level: moderate), or Turtlehead Peak (level: strenuous). 

Keep in mind: It’s important to know your limits when hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and hiking in general. There are trails for every skill level. Don’t hesitate to turn around if you worry that a trail will over-exert you!  

Mojave National Preserve

Distance from Las Vegas: 1 hour and 8 minutes, 68 miles

If you have an itch for adventure, how does it sound to explore places to drive near Las Vegas? This 1.6 million-acre park’s massive landscape features canyons, wildflower fields, and sand dunes. 

If history is more your thing, you’ll find abandoned buildings galore at the Mojave National Preserve. Homesteads and military outposts, for instance, pay homage to days past. 

Add the Kelso Dunes (the largest in the Mojave Desert!), Rings Loop, and Boulders Viewpoint Area to your list of must-see sights. If you’re feeling active, hike or bike through the preserve. Horseback riding is another way to see it all!

Wide shot of the Mojave Desert with a pink sunset near Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
photo credit: Will Truettner via Unsplash

Antelope Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 4 hours and 43 minutes, 279 miles

Take the long driving distance from Las Vegas to take your adventure further! Known as a slot canyon, Antelope Canyon is a geological wonder located in Arizona. The canyon and its captivating, orange-red swirls result from years of flash floods followed by sandstorms. After plenty of rinsing and repeating this process, the canyon became what it is today!

Since the canyon is located on a Navajo Indian Reservation, you can only enter it on a guided tour. For the full experience, we recommend opting for a boat or kayak tour to see the waterside of the canyon!

Photo Alert: The bright, toasty hues of this canyon are totally Instagram-worthy. Bring your Bohemian-style hat as a prop and snap away!

light shinning through slot canyons in Antelope Canyon in Arizona, USA
photo credit: pixabay

Valley of Fire State Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 46 minutes, 46 miles

One of the hot things to do within driving distance of Las Vegas is to visit the magnificent park.  The Valley of Fire State Park is a sizzling, red rock showcase that takes up a whopping 40,000 acres. Petrified trees and petroglyphs give the park an ancient spin that conjures visions of the past. It serves as both the oldest and largest state park in Nevada!

Grab a picnic blanket and catch a sunset here for a spectacular sight. This will allow you to see why the park earned its name! The red sandstone formations often look as if they are on fire when the sun hits them just right.

Pro Tip: The availability of campsites at this park may mean you’ll decide to turn your day trip into an all-nighter. As a bonus, the park even offers wifi for a fee!

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 3 hours and 11 minutes, 187 miles

The Mojave and the Colorado Desert ecosystems combine at the Joshua Tree National Park to create double the beauty. As a result, there is an enchanting diversity of flora and fauna found at the park. The Joshua Tree itself may be the most fascinating feature of the park.

Hiking, camping, and backpacking are popular activities at Joshua Tree National Park. However, one of the best ways to take advantage of the desolate desert is stargazing. Free of light pollution, this national park is a great place to see an explosion of glittering stars in the night sky. It’s specifically labeled as an International Dark Sky Park

Pro Tip: Use a red light flashlight instead of the traditional white light flashlight. This will help your eyes adjust to the darkness more easily to see more stars! If you don’t have one, simply cover a regular flashlight with red paper.

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When having a day trip from Las and visiting the park, there are some dangers. So, you’ll need to keep a few safety tips in mind. First of all, since cell service is sparse, don’t plan to depend on your phone in an emergency. Secondly, the park is typically very hot and dry. So, wear cool clothing, use plenty of sun protection, and drink lots of water! Lastly, keep a safe distance from wildlife. Any wild animal can potentially be dangerous. 

nightshot showing stars in the sky and close up of a tree in Joshua Tree in California, USADixie National Forest

Distance from Las Vegas: 3 hours and 2 minutes, 182 miles

If you’re tired of sparse canyons and deserts and you want a memorable trip from Las Vegas, a walk through the wilderness of Dixie National Forest is the perfect respite. As the elevation gets higher, wondrous woodland areas are filled with cool evergreens. There’s plenty of wide-open space, too, as this Utah forest takes up two million acres!

There are four distinct wilderness areas in the national forest: Ashdown Gorge, Box-Death Hollow, Cottonwood Forest, and Pine Valley Mountain. Pine Valley Mountain takes the title of the largest wilderness area and features 151 miles of trails.

Hike, mountain bike, or even spend the night at the Navajo Lake Campground!

Red Canyon Tunnel with trees on the side of the road in Dixie National Forest in Utah, USA
photo credit: pixabay

Mount Charleston

Distance from Las Vegas: 48 minutes, 39 miles

Also known as Spring Mountains Recreational Area, Mount Charleston is a fantastic escape from the sweltering Las Vegas heat. This unique spot is located in the middle of the Mojave Desert but boasts cooler temperatures year-round.

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Revel in all four seasons! Striking colors take over in the fall, while wildflowers bloom in the spring. The winters are a wonderland, and the summers are drastically cooler than Las Vegas summers.

Spend your time hiking, biking, horseback riding, or joining guided tours. Additionally, you can simply relax and take a scenic drive or visit the Seven Magic Mountains along the way!

Bryce Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 4 hours and 3 minutes, 260 miles

There are a plethora of majestic canyons near Las Vegas, such as the Black Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. Among these is Bryce Canyon which takes pride in its stunning landscape. Aside from being breathtakingly gorgeous, Bryce Canyon is known for a fascinating geological characteristic: hoodoos. These irregular columns of weathered rock are a sight to behold, and Bryce Canyon happens to have more hoodoos than any other single spot in the world.

The visitor center, which features a park museum, is an excellent place to start your visit. If your time is cramped because you want to get back to Vegas before it gets too late, hit the most popular viewpoints: Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce. Have a little more time? Take a hike! Both easy and challenging trails are available for hikers of all skill levels.

 

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Pro Tip: Keep in mind the busiest time of year at the canyon is May through September. If you prefer a thinner crowd, visit during the off-season!

While enjoying this wild nature scenery, there are a few safety tips to be aware of. First of all, climbing on cliffs may be tempting. However, this is illegal for your own safety. Gravely or crumbly rock makes it easy to lose your footing and fall.

Moreover, it’s essential to ensure you have proper hiking footwear, even if you’re staying on the trails. Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water!

sandstone formations of Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA with several trees during the daytime
photo credit: Pixabay

Las Vegas Day Trip FAQs

Indeed, both destinations are not significantly distant from each other. Interestingly enough, you could actually visit both the Dam and the Grand Canyon on the same day but it's better to take a full day for each, at least. While it's completely possible to come back to Vegas from the Grand Canyon, most people find it more fitting to continue to a different location afterwards.

Access to the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. necessitates a timed entry permit. Vehicles need to have passed the fee station by 8 a.m. to get in without a reservation. Each day's entry requires a separate timed entry reservation. It's suggested that tickets be procured online ahead of time for your convenience.

Experience the Best Day Trips from Las Vegas

When you’re ready for a break from Sin City, plan to go on one (or a few!) of these day trips from Las Vegas. Whether you decide to take a short day trip or a long day trip, you’re bound to end the day with new stories and pictures to bring home.

Once you’re back in Vegas, fill your itinerary with other things to do! Tripster offers many budget-friendly options to experience the city on the cheap.

Where Will You Head First?

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Written by Michaela Satterfield

Michaela is a journalist who views every story she writes as an adventure, leading her to explore new places and meet new people....


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