Casinos and nightlife may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Las Vegas, but something that makes the city so special is that it’s surrounded by an unrivaled array of wonderful destinations perfect for a day spent outdoors.
Thanks to the fact that the city is located close to the borders of California, Utah, and Arizona, Las Vegas acts as a perfect start-off point to hop over not only to some of the best places in Nevada but also to those of its neighboring states.
If you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and looking for ways to escape the bustle and hustle of Sin City, here are some of the most wonderful day trips to take!
10 Incredible Day Trips From Las Vegas
1. Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Nevada
Distance from Las Vegas: 16 miles ~ via US95 (20 minutes)
Even though Red Rock Canyon is located less than thirty minutes away from Las Vegas, it still remains a bit of a secret in the Nevada parks system.
Hiking and scenic driving are the ultimate ways to explore Red Rock Canyon. A must-do hike if you don’t mind the heat is the Ice Box Canyon Trail, which will have you walking amidst a mesmerizing red rock canyon while gawking at seasonal waterfalls.
If you’d rather not break a sweat, though, you can also explore the park from the comfort of your car by driving the Red Rock Canyon Drive, a 13-mile scenic loop that offers ample vistas of the canyon system as well as the park’s main highlights!
State Park Entry Fee: $15 per vehicle or Nevada State Parks Annual Pass & America the Beautiful Annual Pass accepted
TOP TIP: due to increasing popularity there may be a timed entry needed for the scenic loop during the peak season (October to May) – check the online reservation system here.
2. Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Nevada
Distance from Las Vegas: 40 miles ~ via US-95 & NV157 (45 minutes)
Best known to locals as Mount Charleston, Springs Mountains is set less than an hour away from downtown Las Vegas and provides a wonderful opportunity to experience a contrast of entirely opposite landscapes: snow-dusted mountain peaks amid an expensive desert.
The area is home to over 316,000 acres of nature, which pretty much means you’ll have a hard time getting bored here. Hiking is king at Spring Mountains, with over 60 miles of trails available, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging feats that reach heights of over 11,000 feet!
Other activities include camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and backpacking during the warmer months. Come winter, the entire area becomes a mecca for snow fun, with activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding being favorites for visitors!
3. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Distance from Las Vegas: 46 miles ~ via I-15 (50 minutes)
Taking you into a wonderland of red rock Aztec sandstone, ancient petroglyphs, petrified logs, and scenery that comes in all shades of oranges, reds, and pinks, a visit to Valley of Fire State Park will make you feel as though you’ve been transported right into the heart of Mars.
Hiking is the best way to fully get to know the park. Considering its somewhat gentle terrain, it makes for a perfect spot to get a taste of what hiking in the desert is like. Two great hikes to cover as many highlights as possible include the Fire of Wave and Rainbow Vista trails, both of which provide some of the most mesmerizing views in the entire park.
Scenic driving is another wonderful way to explore Valley of Fire, especially if you want to cover as much ground as possible in a few hours. The Mouse’s Tank Road is a 5.7-mile road that cuts right through the park and provides access to the most photogenic viewpoints in the park, including narrow canyons, colorful rocks, and petroglyphs galore.
State Park Entry Fee: $15 per vehicle or Nevada State Parks Annual Pass & America the Beautiful Annual Pass accepted
Top Tip: If you are wanting to camp overnight in the Valley of Fire, reservations for the following year open the first Wednesday in November
4. Mount Tipton Wilderness, Arizona
Distance from Las Vegas: 88 miles ~ via I-11 & US-93 (1 hour 30 minutes)
If hidden gems and pure wilderness are your jam, Mount Tipton is guaranteed to please! Located in Arizona and only an hour and a half away from downtown Las Vegas, a visit to this vast wilderness area provides visitors with the unique opportunity to enjoy nature in absolute solitude.
Encompassing over 30,000 acres of land, including half of the Cerbat Mountains, the unique Cerbat Pinnacles, and Mount Tipton, a visit to this gorgeous spot is all about hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, and off-road driving.
Climbing Mount Tipton, which towers 7,148 feet above the landscape, is also possible for experienced hikers, who will not only get to conquer one of the mightiest peaks in the Southwest region but also get to hike through unique ponderosa pines along the way!
Top Tip: It’s highly recommended you tackle the Mount Tipton wilderness with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Note the area is prone to extreme heat in summer and snow at high elevations in winter.
5. Snow Canyon State Park, Utah
Distance from Las Vegas: 124 miles ~ via I-15 (2 hours)
Located right where the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau, and Great Basin meet, Snow Canyon State Park is a blend of entirely different ecosystems that, put together, create a fascinating geological terrain. Made up of Navajo sandstone cliffs, expansive lava fields, and petrified sand dunes, it’s the perfect spot perfect for unique outdoor adventures.
During your visit to Greater Zion, popular activities include hiking through the main canyon (trails are pretty flat, making it ideal for kids and first-timers), rock climbing, driving or biking the park’s scenic road, and climbing sand dunes, and wildlife viewing.
Moreover, the park is also connected to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, which homes a vast array of endangered species!
State Park Entrance Fees: $10 per vehicle for day use, an annual Snow Canyon pass is $30, or Utah Annual State Park pass $100
6. Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada
Distance from Las Vegas: 130 miles ~ via NV-160 (2 hours 20 minutes)
Don’t let its name fool you: Death Valley National Park is actually one of the liveliest of places in the entire planet!
Death Valley straddles the borders of California and Nevada, and if you’re willing to start the day early, it makes for a perfect day trip from Las Vegas. Home to serpentine canyons, otherworldly-looking rock formations, twisting sand dunes, and kaleidoscopic mountains splashed in every color of the rainbow, the landscape here is so varied and vibrant that you could easily confuse it for an entirely different planet.
The hottest, driest and lowest National Park in the United States (and the largest in the lower 48), the list of things to do in Death Valley is pretty much endless.
If you only have a day, a few must-do activities while visiting include standing on Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the United States), gliding down golden sand dunes, hiking on hills of borax, and gawking at colorful mountains by driving the scenic Artist’s Drive, one of the most scenic drives in California.
National Park Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle for 7 days, or use your annual America the Beautiful pass. A Death Valley Annual pass is $55
Top Tip: Even for a day trip to Death Valley, come prepared; check your weather forecast for extremes, pack plenty of water for everyone and snacks, sunscreen, layered clothing and sturdy footwear. This is a BIG day out from Vegas!
7. Mojave National Preserve, California
Distance from Las Vegas: 143 miles ~ via US-95 (2 hours and 30 minutes)
Petrified lava blanketing the ground, twisting sand dunes, ancient volcanoes, and Joshua Trees sprinkled all over. That’s a day at Mojave National Preserve in a nutshell.
Despite its short distance from Las Vegas, this gem of a place still remains pretty off-the-beaten-track, making it an ideal day trip from the Strip if a day spent exploring the desert on your own sounds like your type of adventure.
Even though there are plenty of activities on offer at Mojave, an activity you absolutely can’t miss out on doing is hiking up the Kelso Sand Dunes, which rise up over 650 feet from the ground and are famed for the whistling sound they create when walked on.
Another must-do is seeing the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world, which you’ll find by hiking the Teutonia Peak Trail!
Top Tip: Despite its National Preserve status, there’s no day pass or entrance fee required, making it one of the cheapest day trips from Las Vegas.
8. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Distance from Las Vegas: 187 miles ~ via I-15 (3 hours)
Located right where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet, Joshua Tree is a blend of two entirely different ecosystems that, when put together, create a striking landscape that looks as though it belongs on an entirely different planet.
Joshua Tree is humongous, which means you likely need a few days to be able to fully explore it. If you’re willing to start the day early, though, you can definitely cover a ton of ground in order to experience its main highlights in just a day.
On the menu for a day exploring the park’s desert magic are miles of hikeable trails, horseback riding, rock climbing, and biking. If you have enough time, try staying past sunset in order to experience the park’s amazing night sky (it’s considered one of the best spots in the USA for star gazing!)
National Park Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. A Joshua Tree Annual Pass is $55 or use your America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
9. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Distance from Las Vegas: 260 miles ~ via I-15 (4 hours)
Bryce Canyon is located four hours away from Las Vegas, which may sound like a bit of a stretch for a day trip. Still, if you’re willing to wake up early, a day trip from Vegas is very much doable thanks to the park’s tiny size!
Striking red rock hoodoos are the main thing to see at Bryce Canyon, and there’s no better way to cover as much ground as possible than by hiking the Queen’s Garden to Navajo Loop Trail. This hike will give you the chance to swerve your way through sheer rock tunnels, pine forests contrasted by red rocks, and finally, gawking at the views of the sandstone hoodoos that make Bryce Canyon the incredibly unique place it is!
If you’d rather explore from the comfort of your car, you can also drive the park’s scenic highway (Highway 12) to Rainbow Viewpoint and then make your way back slowly. This road cuts right through the park and offers visitors 13 different viewpoints of its main highlights!
National Park Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. A Bryce Canyon Annual Pass is $40 or use your America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
Want to continue onward through Arizona? Capture not just Bryce Canyon and Zion but the majestic beauty of southern Utah’s “Mighty 5” including Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands in this epic one-week Utah national parks itinerary.
Las Vegas (LAS) is one of the closest airports to Zion and Bryce Canyon, making it quite a convenient starting point for a Utah road trip.
10. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Distance from Las Vegas: 276 miles ~ via I-15 & US-89 (4 hours 30 minutes)
Millions of years ago, harsh floods rushed into cracks of sandstone in the desert and Antelope Canyon was formed.
Even though the entire Southwest is made up of fascinating slot canyons, what makes Antelope Canyon so unique is the fact that its walls are plastered by swirls of desert colors that pop to life when light hits them.
The only way to explore the canyon is by hiking through it. You will be taken from the car parking entrance to the canyon entrance by four-wheel drive. Upper Antelope Canyon is a pretty easy trail that can take around two hours, considering you’ll be making multiple stops to take in the striking scenery!
If you have time, you can also check out the much lesser-visited adjoining Lower Antelope Canyon. This canyon is just as gorgeous, but it’s made up for much thinner passages, which makes hiking through it a bit tougher for those who are after a challenge!
Top Tip: You can only enter with an authorized Navajo guide. Tours can book out weeks in advance, so you need to be organized & traveling with small children check they have enough infant seats that day.
Entrance Fees for Antelope Canyon: This depends on the type of tour you’ve booked but expect to pay $50-$90 per adult, children discounted. The tour should include your $8 Navajo permit fee.
Plotting Out Your Las Vegas Day Trips
Use this handy Google Map to plot out your route, or pop on over here to this complete Nevada itinerary if you’d like to see some more of the Silver State on a continuous road trip from Las Vegas to Reno.
If you want to extend your trip onwards through the southwest, check out our 7-day Southwest itinerary, or you can keep going beyond Bryce Canyon NP & Antelope Canyon using our Arizona & Utah itinerary.
We hope this list of the ten best day trips from Las Vegas helped you plan your next getaway from the city. Even though Vegas offers plenty to do, there’s nothing quite like exploring the mesmerizing nature that surrounds this gem of a city!
Final Tips on Visiting Las Vegas & the Southwest
- The day trip ideas here cover both State Parks and National Parks. State Park entry fees are $15 per day for non-Nevada residents). If you’ll be in Nevada for an extended period of time, it’s worth considering a Nevada annual permit. For National Park visitors, we’re sure you’ll need no convincing on the value you’ll get from an America the Beautiful annual pass.
- Think you can visit all 15 of Nevada’s State Parks? Pick up a Nevada Passport and take on the Passport Challenge to win yourself an annual pass.
- Watch your time zones! Nevada is on Pacific Standard Time (PST) then switches to Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) from mid-March to mid-November. California destinations are in the same time zone, but if you’ll be crossing to Utah or Arizona, you’ll be in Mountain Standard Time. Utah switches to Mountain Daylight Time, but Arizona DOES NOT change!
- Think carefully about the time of year you’re visiting. Summer in the desert can be brutally hot, and not all of these day trips may be possible, especially with kids and where a lot of outdoor activity is involved. Always set out with plenty of water and observe our desert driving tips in Nevada and the Southwest.
- You can check current road conditions in Nevada before you set out at nvroads.com
- Never forget a road trip essential again with our downloadable family road trip checklist.
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