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An oasis of extravagance in the midst of the desert state of Nevada, Las Vegas is a city that is unique in all the world. Sometimes Sin City can be a bit much, however. We’ve rounded up these day trips that serve as the perfect antidote to the flashing lights, neon signs, and pumping music of Las Vegas. Outside of the city, there are a multitude of natural wonders and interesting sites to discover. Here are the best day trips from Las Vegas to provide a much-needed balance to the exhilaration of life on the strip.
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10 Best Day Trips from Las Vegas
Without question, the Grand Canyon is the most famous sight to see outside of Las Vegas. Boasting one of the most dramatic landscapes the United States has to offer, the Grand Canyon is an item on the bucket list of travelers around the world.
Located in Northern Arizona and traversing over 275 miles, this national landmark is the work of the Colorado River. Millions of years of natural erosion have formed the Grand Canyon, and will continue to do so until the river stops flowing.
The canyon in its entirety is far too massive to be explored in one visit. In fact, it would take months upon months to explore the entire thing! The West Rim is the closest to Vegas and the perfect base for a day trip. Here, you can find the Skywalk, which is a glass-bottomed walkway. Also near the West Rim are zip-lining, restaurants, souvenirs, and of course, views as far as the eye can see.
There is also a cultural center dedicated to the Hualapai Native American tribe, as the West Rim is located on sacred tribal grounds. It would definitely behoove you to make a stop and learn a little about the indigenous people to the area.
There are a number of ways to reach the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, with the fastest option being a helicopter! As you can imagine, this is also the most expensive! Guided day trip would probably be the second most convenient option. Driving or taking public transportation can take quite a few hours.
Death Valley National Park
The aptly named Death Valley National Park boasts one of the hottest and driest climates on earth. This is one of the best day trips from Vegas. It’s particularly well suited to people who really want to get out into nature and spend the day hiking.
Despite the fact that it’s in California, a drive to Death Valley only takes about two hours by car.
Be sure to visit Furnace Creek, Zabriskie Point, and Badwater while you’re there.
Another unique spot to discover here is Rhyolite. This is an abandoned town that was left desolate following the gold rush. If you’re into abandoned places, eerie vibes, and the like, Rhyolite can’t be missed.
Despite its seemingly inhospitable landscape, Death Valley is actually full of life. Some of the local critters that call Death Valley home include coyotes, foxes, and bighorn sheep. Keep your eyes peeled as you hike the dusty trails and admire the flowering desert shrubs along the way.
You are permitted to bring your own furry friends (on a leash) if you’d like. However, I personally wouldn’t risk it in the vicinity of coyotes.
Although we’ve billed Death Valley as a day trip, it really flourishes once the sun sets. You can see some of the darkest skies on earth here, which makes it an ideal stopover for the stargazers in your life. Definitely bring binoculars, as many desert animals are nocturnal and come out only at night. If you don’t feel like heading back to the city this late, there are hotels and campsites where you can stay.
Area 51 is regarded as one of the most mysterious places on earth, making it the one of the best day trips from Las Vegas for extraterrestrial enthusiasts, curious voyagers, military aficionados, and conspiracy theorists.
Home to one of the worlds most elusive military facilities, Area 51 and the town in which it is found offers plenty of things to do. While you won’t be able to access the military base due to the high level of security required, you won’t be bored visiting the area surrounding Area 51.
Rachel, Nevada is where you will visit to explore the area.
Conveniently located on the Extraterrestrial Highway, Rachel is home to a mere 54 residents and serves as the entry to the land of ET mystery. Make a stop at the kitschy Little A-le-Inn Bar & Motel for one of their famous alien burgers and an otherworldly souvenir.
Continue down the highway for more alien-inspired adventure all the way to the Alien Research Center. Here, you can read up on interesting Area 51 facts or take a photo in front of the huge silver alien in front of the building.
Driving to Area 51 takes a little less than three hours. Alternatively, you can take a guided day trip. If you’re going out on your own, I recommend watching a few documentaries prior to your day trip!
Given its desert location, bodies of water certainly aren’t among the things that come to mind when you think of Las Vegas. However, this is where you’ll find one of the biggest man-made bodies of water worldwide.
Lake Mead is a popular day trip from Las Vegas, particularly if you’re looking for some water activities outside the hotel pools.
In addition to swimming, you can partake in other fun-filled water activities such as boating, fishing, scuba diving, and more. You can even take a guided boat tour, if that’s your thing. If you want to have some fun on the shores, there are hiking trails, horseback riding, and bike paths. You can even camp at Lake Mead if you prefer to stay the night.
Lake Mead is one of the closest day trips from Las Vegas, taking under 40 minutes by car.
Valley of Fire
The Valley of Fire is a Nevada state park filled with geological wonders. At under an hour from the city, it makes for one of the best day trips from Las Vegas for nature lovers.
This extraordinary landscape is the result of sand dunes shifting over the course of millions of years. The name ‘Valley of Fire’ is derived from the sandstone that appears as though it’s up in flames as the desert sun shines down. Be sure to bring water and sunscreen – temperatures here can exceed 120 degrees (Farenheit).
At the Valley of Fire, you can expect to see ancient Native American petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. The rock carvings are beautifully-preserved, and offer extensive insight into the history of the land and the people who lived there.
There are even dinosaur fossils! Anyone interested in paleontology, geology, or history will love a day trip to the Valley of Fire. Don’t miss the Fire Wave Trail, Atlatl Rock, or Elephant Rock.
To visit the Valley of Fire, a day pass will run you $10. This allows park access, where you can hike, climb rocks, or simply drive around and take photos. Camping is permitted, either in a tent or RV in case you’re interested in star gazing.
Looking to escape the desert while visiting the desert? Situated just outside Las Vegas city limits, you’ll find Mount Charleston, where you can enjoy some snow! Yes, snow. So much snow, in fact, that you can actually ski or snowboard here each winter. You can sled, have snowball fights, ride snowmobiles, and snuggle up with some hot chocolate by one of the cozy fire pits.
If you’re not interested in snow sports, you can still visit Mount Charlton in the summer to enjoy hiking trails, camping, horseback riding, or other outdoor activities. In the autumn months, you can enjoy apple picking at Gilcrease Orchard. You can even pick up a pumpkin to carve should you be here for Halloween.
It’s only a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, so you can easily head out for the day or a night or two.
Bryce Canyon is, without question, one of the most breathtaking landscapes you can experience in the entirety of the United States. Although it takes quite a while, approximately four hours, to drive there, it’s still doable as a day trip if you’re up for a long day. Alternatively, spending the night is a great option as well – and you can double it up with a trip to Zion!
This incredible place is home to almost otherworldly geographical red rock formations. It’s one of the most stunning places in the world, right over the border in the state of Utah.
This natural wonder is the perfect counterbalance to the neon lights and party vibes of Sin City.
Enjoy your day exploring the pink canyons, hoodoos, and encountering local critters. Some of the animals you may see include prairie dogs, mountain lions, and pronghorn deer.
Be sure to bring a camera with you! A telephoto lens will come in handy if you’re looking to get any wildlife shots.
Bryce Canyon is home to a few festivals each year. In July, a geology event guides tourists through the incredible geological formations and different fossils that are seen within the park. Ideal for a family vacation, you can partake in fun activities such as painting or guided hikes, as well as immerse yourself in the history and formation of the landscape.
For stargazers, you absolutely must visit during the annual astronomy festival. The little ones will be able to construct model rockets and hear stories by elite astrologists of NASA. Each night of the festival, telescopes are set up to apply what you’ve learned during the day and see for yourself.
Zion National Park
If you spend the night at Bryce Canyon, you could consider pairing it with a trip to Zion National Park. If you want to see Zion as a separate day trip, it’s a considerably shorter drive than Bryce. It only takes around two and a half hours by car to reach Zion National Park.
Also located in the state of Utah, Zion boasts subterranean gorges covered in verdant green. This can be a welcomed contrast to the dry, red landscapes found in other national parks and canyons in the surrounding area.
‘Zion’ means ‘holy place’ or ‘kingdom of heaven,’ so you can imagine how profound this place is before even visiting. As with other natural wonders of the area, Zion is home to ethereal landscapes, wondrous geological formations, impressive biodiversity, and plenty of outdoor activities.
During your drive in on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway, you’ll be greeted with a number of observation areas where you can pull over and photograph the dramatic landscapes. Park at the Canyon Overlook Trail to take an easy hike to start your day.
Zion National Park also offers a shuttle in order to guide tourists through the best route, choosing the landmarks you wish to see along the way.
There are hikes of varying difficulty, suitable for people of all abilities and experience levels.
Don’t miss Angel’s Landing or the Emerald Pools!
While most of the day trips from Vegas on this list are natural havens, the list wouldn’t be complete without including Hoover Dam, a man-made feat in the midst of the desert. The Hoover Dam is known around the world – in fact, it’s part of my lesson plan for my ESL students in China! We dedicate an entire class to the Hoover Dam, and it’s easy to understand why, when you learn what it took to build it.
The Hoover Dam is the largest man-made reservoir in the United States. Taking more than five years to build and everlasting maintenance, its capacity is hard to believe. The Hoover Dam is designed to hold 28,945,000 acre-feet of water. Yep, you read that right!
A visit to the Hoover Dam will include a tour of the complex as well as the powerplant. Tours last either 30 minutes or one hour. You’ll learn about the power the dam generates as well as its functional role in the desert. If you don’t want to take a guided tour, you can walk around on your own and read the many informational plaques that are found along the walkway.
You can find (paid) parking outside the visitor’s center. If you don’t mind walking in the heat, there is free parking on the Arizona side of the dam.
Hoover Dam only takes 40 minutes by car from Las Vegas.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon stays within the confines of Nevada state borders and was the first national conservation area in the state! It’s definitely worthy on the list of best day trips from Las Vegas.
It’s significantly more easily accessed than Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park, so it may be a more attractive option for those who aren’t up for such a long drive. Red Rock Canyon is only twenty minutes away!
There are many different ways to explore the vastness of Red Rock Canyon and to see the red and ivory Calico Hills. Depending on your fitness level (as well as your energy level!), you can explore via e-bike, on the back of a horse, or on foot. Regardless of how you get around, this is one of the most stunning parts of the Mojave Desert that you can’t miss.
On foot, you can enjoy one of the 26 different hiking trails that traverse the canyon, accommodating all different skill levels. You can take a leisurely walk or an arduous, steep trek. Each has its own beauty and can be appreciated in its own right.
March to May is a wonderful time to go in order to enjoy the colorful desert wildflower bloom.
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