Valley of Fire road | Best day trips from Las Vegas

10 Epic Day Trips from Las Vegas (for When You Get Tired of Vegas)

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Las Vegas is one of the most-visited cities in the US, known for its over-the-top opportunities for overindulgence – and maybe some poor decisions.

It can be a fun city for everything from bachelor/bachelorette parties to family reunions (yes, you can do Las Vegas under 21), and it’s easy to fill a couple days here with gambling, gorging on delicious food, seeing shows, and exploring all sorts of kitschy tourist attractions.

Welcome to Las Vegas sign
Welcome to Las Vegas!

But if you find yourself with some extra time in Las Vegas and a desire to take a break from Sin City, there’s good news! There are lots of excellent day trips from Las Vegas that will make you feel worlds away from casinos and flashing lights.

When you get tired of the overstimulation of Las Vegas, here are the day trips I would personally recommend taking.

(And yes, all of these Vegas day trips involve natural areas and outdoorsy activities because remember: Las Vegas is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the desert and mountains!)

Day trips from Las Vegas: Map

The map below contains all the day trip destinations mentioned in this post so you can best plan your travels. To save this map, click on the star ⭑ next to the map’s title. To use it, open Google Maps on your phone, click “Saved,” then click “Maps.”

Top 10 day trips from Las Vegas

I’m arranging these by distance from Las Vegas, as I think they’re all excellent options and couldn’t possibly attempt to rank them any other way.

1. Red Rock Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 35 minutes

Amanda at Calico Tanks in Red Rock Canyon
At Calico Tanks in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only half an hour to the west of downtown Las Vegas. It was Nevada’s first National Conservation Area, and today is operated by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It’s most known for its red rocks (duh!), and its 13-mile scenic drive*.

*NEED TO KNOW: Timed entry reservations are required for the Red Rocks Scenic Drive from October 1 – May 31 for entry between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can make your reservation at

Once you enter the park, stop at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center to learn more about how this area was formed, and then hit the one-way scenic drive. In just a couple hours, you can get out to hike/rock scramble around Calico Tanks, see petroglyphs near Willow Springs, and hike the Lost Creek Trail.

How to get to Red Rock Canyon

The easiest way to get here is to drive (it’s a straight shot on Nevada State Route 159), and there are ample rental car options in Las Vegas. With your own car, you can drive the Scenic Drive at your own pace (after getting that timed reservation, remember), and stop wherever you like.

Don’t want to drive? There are also tours you can take from Las Vegas like these:

2. Lake Mead

Distance from Las Vegas: 45 minutes

Lake Mead as a day trip from Las Vegas
Lake Mead (by esudroff on Pixabay)

Las Vegas may be in the desert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out on the water nearby. The western edge of Lake Mead is fairly close to Las Vegas (though the entire lake is huge, stretching 120 miles across both Nevada and Arizona).

Lake Mead is actually a reservoir created when the Hoover Dam was built, and today is part of a large National Recreation Area. On the western side of Lake Mead, lots of water sports and cruises can be taken around Hemenway Harbor.

Go fishing off the Lake Mead Fishing Pier, swim at Boulder Beach, and go on a sightseeing or lunch cruise with Lake Mead Cruises on their Mississippi-style riverboat (note that cruises are only offered spring-fall).

How to get to Lake Mead

Driving is going to be your best bet if you want to explore on your own, and you can reach this specific part of Lake Mead in about 45 minutes from Las Vegas.

But there are also some unique tours you can take on/around Lake Mead, including:

It’s also very easy to combine a visit to Lake Mead with a stop at the Hoover Dam!

3. Hoover Dam

Distance from Las Vegas: 50 minutes

Hoover Dam
Visiting the Hoover Dam

Visiting a dam might not be the first thing on your travel bucket list, but the Hoover Dam isn’t just ANY dam. This dam is a feat of modern engineering, having been built in the depths of the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936.

The Hoover Dam was built to harness the power of the Colorado River in order to supply power to nearby towns and cities in Nevada and Arizona – and at the same time to save those communities from the wrath of the Colorado River, which was known for habitually flooding.

It has since been named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark.

You can visit the Hoover Dam to learn all about its engineering innovations. The Visitor Center has narrated exhibits and an observation deck with 360 degree views of the Dam, the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the Hoover Bypass Bridge. And you can also book tours of the Power Plant, or a fully guided Dam tour (which includes the other tours, plus visits to some tunnels inside the Dam).

Hoover Dam Bridge across Black Canyon
Hoover Bypass Bridge

How to get to the Hoover Dam

Driving on your own is easy; you just take I-215 to I-11 and you’ll be there in under an hour. You can book any of the Hoover Dam tours on your own.

But if you don’t have a car, you can also take these tours to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas:

4. Mount Charleston

Distance from Las Vegas: 55 minutes

What would you say if I told you you could go SKIING near Las Vegas? Well, you can! (During the winter months, at least.)

Mount Charleston is a small mountain community within the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, with Charleston Peak at its center. The mountain rises to 11,916 feet, and is the highest point in Clark County.

During the winter months, the Spring Mountains offer up various snow sports and snow play areas, including sledding, skiing, and snowboarding at Lee Canyon Ski & Snowboard Resort. (Just note that snow chains and a 4WD vehicle is recommended to get up into the mountains in winter!)

During the summer months, you can visit Mount Charleston for excellent hiking on its 60+ miles of maintained trails. Find more info on hiking here.

How to get to Mount Charleston

This is one you’ll have to drive to! It’s just under an hour from Las Vegas to Lee Canyon, or many of the recreation area’s hiking trailheads (which are mostly along Nevada State Route 158 and 156).

During the winter months, make sure you’re prepared to drive in snowy/icy conditions with either snow tires or snow chains.

5. Valley of Fire State Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 1 hour 10 minutes

Mouse's Tank Road in Valley of Fire
Mouse’s Tank Road in Valley of Fire

If incredible landscapes are your jam, get ready to be blown away by Valley of Fire. This state park – the very first state park in Nevada, in fact – rivals any national park you’ll find in the Southwest. It’s known for incredible rock formations and unique hiking trails.

Set out for Valley of Fire in the morning, and head straight for the park’s two most popular hikes, at the “back” of the park. Start with the Fire Wave hike, which is a fairly easy hike (1.25 miles) out to a rock formation that does indeed look like a swirly “wave” of pink and white rock. Then move on to the even shorter White Domes loop, which has a little bit of everything, from colorful rock formations to a small slot canyon.

You can then do the short hike to Rainbow Vista and make some photo stops along Mouse’s Tank Road on your way back to the Valley of Fire Visitor Center. Other stops worth making in the park include at Elephant Rock, Atlatl Rock for petroglyphs, and an area called The Beehives.

If you do all of this, expect to spend most of the day in Valley of Fire (and pack a picnic lunch, as there’s no food inside the park!).

PRO TIP: Hiking in any of the parks near Las Vegas is NOT recommended during the summer months, when temperatures regularly get into the triple digits. Valley of Fire especially lacks shade on any of its hikes. Even when visiting outside of the summer months, be sure to come prepared with LOTS of water and sun protection.

Fire Wave rock formation in Valley of Fire
Amanda sitting atop the Fire Wave

How to get to Valley of Fire

Having your own car is again ideal for a trip out to Valley of Fire. It’s an easy drive along the I-15 and then the Valley of Fire Highway.

But if you don’t want to drive, you can also take these Valley of Fire tours from Las Vegas:

6. Emerald Cave

Distance from Las Vegas: 1 hour 10 minutes

Not all that far from the Hoover Dam in another part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, you can explore a bit of the Colorado River at Willow Beach. Here, across the Arizona border, you’ll find steep canyon walls and ample paddlesport opportunities.

From Willow Beach in particular, you can paddle to Emerald Cave – a small cave in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River. The cave gets its name from the brilliant green color of the water inside it.

How to get to Emerald Cave

While you can drive yourself to Willow Beach, it’s highly recommended that you take a guided kayak tour to Emerald Cave. The cave is small, and the water appears the greenest at certain times of day – which a guide can help out with.

Tours you can take from Las Vegas include:

7. Grand Canyon (West Rim)

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours 15 minutes

The Grand Canyon is a very popular place to visit in the Southwest. And while the national park sections (Grand Canyon South and Grand Canyon North Rim) are a bit too far away for an easy day trip from Las Vegas, you CAN visit the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in just a couple hours.

The Grand Canyon West Rim is outside of the national park, and is managed by the Hualapai Nation. The most popular thing to do here is visit the Grand Canyon West Skywalk, a curved glass-bottomed bridge suspended 4,000 feet about the canyon floor.

There’s also a zip line, a replica Native American Village, plus a couple viewpoints, restaurants, shops, etc. Again, this is NOT within Grand Canyon National Park, but is indeed part of the Grand Canyon.

How to get to Grand Canyon West Rim

You can drive here in your own car in just a little over 2 hours (you’ll drive right past the Hoover Dam, too!). Note that a National Parks Pass won’t work here, as the Hualapai Nation manages this part of the Grand Canyon independently.

There are also several tours you can take to this part of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas:

8. Death Valley National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours 15 minutes

Amanda with Badwater Basin sign in Death Valley
The lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin

In the opposite direction from the Grand Canyon, you can also take a day trip to Death Valley National Park in California. Death Valley is a vast park known for its otherworldly landscapes and sky-high summer temperatures.

You can see a lot in Death Valley in one day, especially if you get an early start. See the views at Zabriskie Point, walk out into the salt flats at Badwater Basin (the lowest elevation point in North America), drive the scenic Artist’s Drive Loop to see the colorful Artists Palette, and explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

WARNING: DO NOT attempt hikes at Death Valley during the summer months. It is far too hot and dangerous. If you’re taking a day trip from Las Vegas, you’ll be in Death Valley at the hottest part of the day. Pack plenty of water and sun protection, and stay safe!

Walking through Artist's Palette in Death Valley
Walking through the colorful Artist’s Palette

How to get to Death Valley National Park

Driving will be your best option, so you can explore the park in your own time. It will be a long day, but worth it to explore this unique national park!

OR, there are a couple tour options to Death Valley from Las Vegas:

9. Zion National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours 45 minutes

The Watchman in Zion National Park at sunset
The Watchman viewpoint in Zion National Park

A day trip to Zion National Park from Las Vegas will make for a very long day, but it can definitely be worth it. As part of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks, Zion is one of the most-visited and iconic parks in the United States – and for good reason! The red rocks and mountains are simply stunning.

While dedicating more time to Zion National Park would be necessary to do any of its longer hikes (like Angel’s Landing or The Narrows), you can still see quite a bit with just half a day.

You can drive the stunning Mount Carmel Highway, and then either drive or take the free shuttle (depending on time of year) into Zion Canyon. Some shorter hikes to try include the Canyon Overlook Trail, the Emerald Pools Trail, and the Riverside Walk along the Virgin River.

NEED TO KNOW: The road into Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles from March-November. During these months, you’ll have to park at the Visitor Center (or in the town of Springdale) and take the free shuttles into the heart of the park. These shuttles do NOT require reservations or tickets. More shuttle info here.

How to get to Zion National Park

Driving is your best bet from Las Vegas, though finding parking past the early morning hours in Zion National Park can be tricky during busier times of year. In these cases, you’re better off trying to find parking in the town of Springdale, and taking the Springdale Shuttle from Majestic View Lodge (Stop 9) into Zion.

There are also these Zion tours from Las Vegas to consider:

10. Mojave National Preserve

Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours 15 minutes

If you want to continue the desert vibes during a Las Vegas day trip, then a unique spot you can visit is the Mojave National Preserve over the border in California. Located in the Mojave Desert, the top thing to do here is visit the huge Kelso Sand Dunes.

The Kelso Dunes are the third-largest dune system in the U.S., with some of the dunes towering more than 600 feet! You can hike/climb the Kelso Dunes, and listen for the unique “singing” or “booming” these sandy hills are known for, which can seem like a deep, eerie rumbling or vibration you can physically feel.

Also in the Mojave Preserve you can visit a 27,000-year-old lava tube, see Joshua trees along Cima Road, visit the Mitchell Caverns, and perhaps hike the 1.5-mile Rings Loop Trail if it’s not too hot.

How to get to Mojave National Preserve

Driving is required to get to the Mojave Desert from Las Vegas. Note that some of the roads in the preserve are a little rough, so a 4WD vehicle is recommended in some cases. Also, GPS directions don’t always get everything right here; you’re encouraged to check road conditions here.

BONUS: Seven Magic Mountains

Distance from Las Vegas: 30 minutes

Seven Magic Mountains colorful stacked rocks
Seven Magic Mountains

Another spot I can’t leave off this list is Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation just off I-15 about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas. The installation by artist Ugo Rondinone consists of 7 giant columns of neon-painted stacked rocks. It was originally supposed to be a temporary installation, but has become semi-permanent instead (thanks perhaps to the site’s Instagram fame).

I’m adding this as a “bonus” stop because I don’t think it’s worth a trip all on its own (it’s literally just some painted rock pillars, and you can see it quickly). But it’s very easy to add a stop here on your way out of or back into Las Vegas on several of the day trip options I’ve listed above.

How to get to Seven Magic Mountains

Many tours from Las Vegas include a photo stop here. Otherwise, it’s about a 30-minute drive down I-15 from central Vegas.

What about the Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon?

Can you *technically* visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or spots like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona on a day trip from Las Vegas? Yes, in the most technical sense you can. But these are places that require 4.5 hours of driving ONE WAY to reach, meaning you’d be spending 9+ hours in the car to visit them in one day.

I would not recommend such a trip; it’s just too much driving for a single day!

Light beam in Lower Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon? Not a good day trip from Las Vegas.

More info for your Las Vegas trip

  • Hotels: My top pick is the Park MGM, which is the only fully non-smoking hotel on the Vegas Strip. The hotel has everything you expect to find in a Vegas hotel (pools, a casino, restaurants, etc.), but there’s no smoking allowed anywhere in the hotel. It’s an affordable Vegas hotel option, and hotel parking is only $15 a night! (You can also search for more Vegas hotels on or Expedia.)
  • Rental cars: Check out the best Las Vegas rental car deals here if you want to drive yourself on some of these day trips!
  • Saving money: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, consider picking up a National Parks Pass, which gets you unlimited entry to all NPS-managed parks and sites for a full year for just $80.
  • Travel planning: Traveling to Las Vegas with kids? Check out this guide to How to Have Fun in Las Vegas Without Gambling and Booze.

Like this post? Have more questions about taking day trips from Las Vegas? Ask away in the comments. Have a nice (day) trip!

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