It’s impossible to get bored in Las Vegas, so it’s understandable that many people visit Sin City and never get beyond its borders. However, there are some fascinating and beautiful sights just a short drive away. And if you need a break from all the lights and noise, then a day trip might just be the right idea.
Day trips from Las Vegas range from natural wonders to man-made engineering feats. Whether you’re looking for a hiking challenge or just an easygoing sightseeing experience, there is something for you. Some of these options are farther afield, so you’ll need to leave early or consider an overnight stay.
1. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Just a 30-minute drive from the Strip is an almost-200,000-acre conservation area known for its deep red rock walls perfect for hiking, bouldering, and rock climbing. Only a small number of visitors to Las Vegas make it out to the vast wilderness of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. If your time is limited, enjoy the 13-mile scenic drive. But if possible, head out on one of the 26 trails to explore deep into the canyon. Or try one of the many rock-climbing routes ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. If you don’t have transportation, try booking a tour of Red Rock. No matter how you choose to explore this area, be sure to look out for wildlife, including bighorn sheep.
First-time visitors to Red Rock should definitely stop at the visitor center for more information about the flora and fauna of this region. Volunteers are usually available to help provide advice on hiking and climbing, or simply answer questions.
Pro Tip: Red Rock experiences everything from freezing temperatures in the winter months to extreme heat in the summer. Before venturing out on trails or rock-climbing routes, be sure to check the weather report for the day. Also be sure to bring water, food, a first-aid kit, and all the proper gear.
2. Valley Of Fire State Park
Just an hour outside of Vegas is another outdoor gem rarely seen by visitors, the Valley of Fire State Park. At 40,000 acres, it’s considerably smaller than Red Rock, but it’s also a fun hiking destination. Here you’ll find red sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, petrified trees, and petroglyphs. Most of the trails here are rated easy to moderate and are a mile or shorter. Combine a few of the trails if you wish to go farther. One of the famous sites in the Valley of Fire is Elephant Rock, located next to the east entrance. For terrific Instagram shots, head to Pastel Canyon, also known as Pink Canyon.
Pro Tip: Once again, temperatures here range from freezing cold to blistering hot. Be sure to check weather conditions prior to travel, and always come prepared with water, food, a first-aid kit, and the proper gear if you plan to hike.
3. Grand Canyon West
The Grand Canyon is among the most popular day trips from Las Vegas, and as one of the world’s seven natural wonders, it’s definitely worth the trip. At 270 miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, it could take a lifetime to fully explore this multilayered and colorful canyon.
The closest section of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas is the West Rim, about a 2.5-hour drive away. This part of the canyon is owned by the Hualapai Tribe, so private cars aren’t allowed. Park at the welcome center and take the shuttle to popular viewpoints. The highlight at the West Rim is the Skywalk, a 10-foot-wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extending 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon and providing a clear view to the canyon floor 4,000 feet below. If you didn’t bring a car to Las Vegas, consider booking a tour that provides transportation to the West Rim.
It is possible to visit the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, but an overnight stay is recommended for these, since the drive each way is 4 to 5 hours.
4. Seven Magic Mountains
Ten miles south of Las Vegas, you’ll find a large-scale public art installation called Seven Magic Mountains. Internationally renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone designed seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than 30 feet high just a short distance from the very busy Interstate 15. It’s intended to mark the halfway point between the natural sights of the mountains and desert and the artificial freeway that connects the cities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
It’s free to view Seven Magic Mountains, and visitors are encouraged to use the unpaved path adjacent to the parking lot to reach the installation. Be aware that there are no restrooms or services in the immediate area.
If you’re driving to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, make Seven Magic Mountains a stop along the way. You’ll see it along Interstate 15 about 30 minutes before arriving in Vegas.
5. Hoover Dam
Less than an hour southeast of Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, a marvel of engineering. At the time of its completion in 1935, it was the highest dam in the world. It’s as tall as a 60-story building and took over 21,000 men to build. Today it provides power to Nevada, Arizona, and California.
There are several options for exploring the Hoover Dam. If your time is limited, just driving over the dam is worthwhile. You could also check out the visitor center, take a 1-hour guided tour, or book a tour from Las Vegas. Try a helicopter tour, and you’ll get a terrific aerial view of the dam.
Pro Tip: If you drove to the dam and want to grab a meal before or after seeing it, pop into the nearby town of Boulder City. The town was born in the 1930s, when workers on the Hoover Dam needed a place to live. Today it’s a lively town with plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops for tourists to enjoy.
6. Zion National Park
Some of the country’s most epic hikes can be found in Zion National Park. But even if you’re not a hiker, Zion National Park is a terrific option for a day trip from Las Vegas. It will take about 2.5 hours to reach the park from Sin City.
Steep red, pink, and orange cliffs dominate the scenery in Zion. Tucked below the cliffs are deep gorges, curvy slot canyons, rushing rivers, and a wide array of wildlife. Private cars are restricted in Zion, so a popular way to explore the park is on the shuttle that offers stops at many sights. Thrill-seekers will want to hike Angels Landing, a narrow trail that ascends almost 1,500 feet. The reward is unparalleled views of the canyon below. Or for something really unique, hike The Narrows, a path that traverses a gorge and requires wading through the Virgin River.
7. Calico Ghost Town
Anyone interested in the Old West will certainly want to head to Calico Ghost Town. This former mining town has been around since 1881, though it was abandoned in the mid-1890s when silver lost its value. Walter Knott purchased the town in the mid 1950s and restored most of the buildings. Calico became a State Historical Site in 2005.
Today, visitors can browse the Lucy Lane Museum and Maggie Mine to learn what life was like while the town was inhabited. When it’s time to eat, pop into Lil’s Saloon or the Old Miner’s Cafe. Don’t leave without browsing some of the town’s shops, like Lane’s General Merchandise. This is a particularly good day trip option if you’re traveling with the grandkids.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving to Vegas from the Los Angeles area, you can visit Calico Ghost Town on the way.
8. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is 3 hours from Las Vegas, but the experience is definitely worth the drive. Named for the short and spindly trees found within it, the national park offers a combination of natural beauty and quirky history. This vast desert landscape has attracted Mormon pioneers, cattle ranchers, adventure-seekers, and nature lovers over the years.
Be sure to start at the visitor center to enjoy the informative exhibits about the park’s flora and fauna. You’ll also find park rangers and volunteers who can answer questions and give advice about sightseeing and hiking.
With more than 100 miles of trails, Joshua Tree is understandably popular with hikers. Ryan Mountain is a 3-mile out-and-back trail that climbs more than 1,000 feet and ends with gorgeous views at the summit. A much easier option is the .2-mile Keys View loop trail. As the highest point in the park, it also offers stunning views. And fortunately, this one is wheelchair accessible.