A trip to Las Vegas doesn’t mean sticking to The Strip. Although it may seem like Las Vegas and its mega-resorts simply jut out of the arid desert with nothing else around, there’s plenty nearby to do. From hitting the peaks and powder in the winter to exploring ancient petroglyphs, antiquing in nearby towns, and even checking out modern marvels, there is so much to experience when it comes to day trips from Las Vegas.
So, rent a car or book a day tour and see what else makes the region so special aside from the world-class food, nightlife, and entertainment that await in town.
Mt. Charleston: 45 - 60 minutes by car, depending on where in Las Vegas
Located 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas is Mt. Charleston. Tucked into the magnificent Spring Mountain range in Toiyabe National Forest, Mt. Charleston treats visitors to something they don’t get in the desert 11,900-plus feet below: four seasons. Book a tour, or rent a car and head there on your own. In the summer, it’s the perfect respite from the sweltering heat of the desert and around 20 degrees cooler. And, in the winter, it’s where people head for a snowy wonderland.
In the snow-free months, which generally run from April to late October, you can either hike on one of the many stunning trails, including the 3.2-mile roundtrip trek to Mary Jane Falls. One of the area’s most popular hikes, it takes you to waterfalls before turning around. Other activities include biking, grabbing a picnic basket and enjoying the forest in the Lower and Upper Lee Meadows, or simply visiting one of the two lodges to sit al fresco and dine while taking in the rocky gray mountains. Lee Canyon Ski Resort is the closest spot for day trips to ski and snowboard in the winter. But it also is home to mountain biking, archery, scenic chair rides, and more during the off-season.
Valley of Fire State Park: 45 minutes by car
The striking Valley of Fire is an awe of nature, complete with vibrant orange sandstone and gray limestone mountains set against the almost always bright blue sky of Nevada. North of Las Vegas, it’s $10 to get in with a car (note: do not take ride share as it’s nearly impossible to get back to town from the park).
The historic park is home to numerous hiking trails ranging from easy walks like Mouse’s Tank Trail, which includes soft sand, ancient petroglyphs, and even a small watering hole, to more strenuous hikes like the nine-mile Prospect Trail. For those who want to get the most diverse scenery, Prospect Trail is for you. Hikers are treated to 200 million-year-old Aztec sandstone, the red and white striped Fire Wave rocks, white sandstone dome formations, and more.
Pack lunch with you and head the 45 minutes out via I-15 to the park. You can go on your own or hop on a tour. But take note, in the summer, temperatures here can hit up to 120 Fahrenheit, so you’ll need to wear light clothes and pack extra water.
Red Rock Canyon: 20 - 45 minutes by car
Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, Red Rock Canyon National Park is just a few miles west of Las Vegas and provides stunning outcroppings of sandstone and other geologic beauty. Home to some of the best climbing in the world, according to the Bureau of Land Management, with more than 2,000 climbing routes and tons of trails ranging from easy to strenuous, there’s plenty to do on a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. The park has its Scenic Loop, a one-way, 13-mile journey through the area with trailheads. The Loop is home to cars, bikers, and even walkers when the weather is good. For outdoor enthusiasts, the trails include views of the Las Vegas Strip, bubbling creeks, canyons, and more.
It’s $20 per car to take the Scenic Loop (but check for the handful of free days offered as a part of the Bureau of Land Management Fee Free Days) and park within its interior for the many trails. Timed reservations are required for vehicles from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Oct. 1 through May 1.
St. George, Utah: 2 hours by car
Located over the Utah border, St. George is the gateway to some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southwest. A stopping point en route to Zion (or beyond to Bryce Canyon and more), the city is also an attraction on its own.
Head to St. George to explore Bloomington Petroglyph Park with boulders covered in petroglyphs, or take in the 45,000 acres of nature at Red Cliffs Conservation Area. Encased by the Pine Valley Mountains and Dixie National Forest, it’s a fantastic place to get outdoors and into the area's beauty. For more indoor activities, there’s the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, home to restored fighter jets. Or, take in some art at the Kayenta Art Village, dotted with art galleries, museums, studios, and more.
Zion National Park, Utah: 3 hours by car
For explorers short on time but wanting to get to Zion, a day trip from Las Vegas is your best bet. About three hours from town, Zion is one of the country’s most scenic parks. You won’t be able to cram in too much, but for adventurers, you can rise and shine early and head out to climb Angels Landing before sitting alongside the Virgin River on a picnic. There are plenty of shorter hikes you can accomplish in a day, including Emerald Pools Trail or the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail.
Entry is $35 per private vehicle, or enter on foot for $20 per person. Once inside, there is a shuttle you can take to different points of interest. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall; winter is wet and cold, and summer is hot.
Boulder City + Hoover Dam: 1 hour by car
An excellent day trip from Las Vegas packs two things into one—exploring the quaint Boulder City and then visiting Hoover Dam, the most visited dam in the world. Hoover Dam is 40 miles from Las Vegas, so the trip will take you about an hour each way.
Start the day by grabbing breakfast in Boulder City at the popular World Famous Coffee Cup, which was featured on the first episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.. Then, explore the main street of the city and its many antique shops. Or, if you prefer the outdoors, take a walk on the Historic Railroad Trail that goes through tunnels of a now-defunct railroad. You’ll see fantastic views of nearby Lake Mead and Boulder Basin on the 7.5-mile roundtrip jaunt.
After wandering Boulder City, continue on to the dam. At Hoover Dam, park for $10 and walk across it to the Arizona state line, or head on a tour to explore its inner workings ($30 for guided dam tours, $15 for guided power plant tours).
Willow Beach: 1 hour by car
About an hour outside of Las Vegas is Willow Beach, located between Lake Mohave and Lake Mead. Surrounded by canyon walls along the Colorado River, this is the spot for getting on (and perhaps in) the water. There are plenty of kayak tours here that will take you from Hoover Dam to the beach, with stops at coves, waterfalls, and even hot springs. The water temps are cool, so it's perfect most of the year for taking a dip from one of its sandy beaches. It’s $25 to get into the Lake Mead recreation area, which includes Willow Beach.
Lake Mead: 1 hour by car
There’s a ton to do at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is about an hour from Las Vegas. Of course, the most popular thing to do here is to get out on the water. You can rent sport boats, pontoon boats, fishing boats, houseboats, paddle boats, and even waterskis and wakeboards.
In addition, Lake Mead also offers trails for hiking and biking, as well as beaches like Willow Beach for swimming. Taking up 1.5 million acres, the landscape ranges from mountains to canyons and valleys, as well as two lakes – Mead and Mohave. When it comes to hiking, skip the summer months when temps can hit up to 120 in the shade and explore on-foot from November through March. It’s $25 per vehicle to enter the area.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona: 2 ½ - 3 hours by car
The closest entry point to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is its West Rim. Roughly 130 miles from Las Vegas, the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon West Rim is where to go. The popular attraction provides majestic views of this natural wonder, complete with a glass-paneled Skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped glass walk reaches 70 feet over the rim of the Grand Canyon, allowing you to see the Canyon floor 4,000 feet below.
While there, you can also go zip lining, white water rafting, shopping, and grab food. Tickets start at $64 per person and include general admission and entrance to the Skywalk.
Best Day trips from Las Vegas to California
Depending on how long you want to be on the road, it’s possible to make a day trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. There are day trips you can book, or you can rent a car and drive the four-plus hours to LA. But, if you prefer a little less time on the road, the best day trip from Las Vegas to California is to the awe-inspiring Death Valley.
The gigantic national park spans more than 3 million acres of designated wilderness and provides visitors with hikes through some of the most spectacular terrain. An area of extremes, thanks to its below-sea-level basin and record summer heat, you’ll want to save this day trip for the cooler winter months. Be sure to visit Bad Water Basin and its salt flats, the lowest point in the US at 282 feet below sea level. Entry to the park is $30 per vehicle.
Best day trips from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
There are a variety of day trips to the Grand Canyon you can enjoy. Viator offers numerous day trips to the Grand Canyon, like an all-day bus tour to the South Rim. It includes stops in Boulder City, where you can grab breakfast and dinner, and stops on the famous Route 66, plus entrance into the Grand Canyon and time to explore.
If you’ve got a bigger budget, hop on a Maverick helicopter tour via the popular Wind Dancer experience. The tour takes you over Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the Mojave Desert before flying you for more than 10 miles through the Grand Canyon, where you’ll land at the West Rim for champagne and snacks before returning to town.