10 Best Day Trips from Las Vegas You Must Do!

Planning a visit to Las Vegas? Set aside a few days in your itinerary to explore outside Sin City! With several national and state parks within reach, Las Vegas makes a great base for some epic day trips. You’ll be surprised by how much there is to do just outside Vegas. Continue reading to discover the ten best day trips from Las Vegas!

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas

Wilderness is yours to explore all around Sin City!

Located in Nevada on the fringes of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is not too far from scenic wonders in Utah, Arizona, California, and of course, Nevada. Some of these destinations near Las Vegas admittedly come with a long day and lots of driving, but trust me, each place on the list below is worth the effort. So fly into Sin City, rent a car, and prepare to head out for some fabulous, must-do day trips!

 

10 BEST DAY TRIPS FROM LAS VEGAS

If you’re like me, you like to experience Las Vegas in smallish doses. Day trips are the perfect way to add a dollop of active adventure and a breath of fresh natural air to your Las Vegas stay.

From expansive desert vistas to majestic sandstone formations, and from tall mountains to deep canyons, there is a wealth of natural beauty that you can access from Las Vegas. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or a nature lover, you’ll want to return over and over to do these fabulous day trips. We pick a few every time we visit Las Vegas, and these day trips are inevitably the highlights of our visit.

So here’s my list of 10 fabulous day trips from Las Vegas you must do!

#1 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park

At over 3 million acres, Death Valley National Park in California is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Although the park is huge, you can still hit most of the highlights on a day trip from Vegas. Just start early and expect to do a lot of driving over the course of the day.

WHAT TO DO IN DEATH VALLEY IN ONE DAY

Once you arrive at the park, you can pay at the self-pay kiosk, unless you have a National Parks pass. Then make your way to Dante’s View for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley. Next, stop at Zabriskie Point, where the otherworldly landscape will make you gape in awe. Both Dante’s View and Zabriskie Point are excellent places to be at sunrise and in the golden hour.

Zabriskie Point Death Valley National Park California

View from Zabriskie Point

Then head to the Visitor’s Center at Furnace Creek. View the exhibits and learn more about the amazing desert landscapes at the park, and its flora and fauna. Your next set of stops is on Badwater Road, just south of the Visitor Center. On this road, you will see the famous salt flats at Badwater Basin. The flats are home to the lowest point in North America.

Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park California

Salt Flats at Badwater Basin

On your way back, drive the picturesque one-way loop through the colorful canyons of Artist’s Drive. Don’t miss the stop at Artist’s Palette, where you can actually walk on to the colored mineral deposits.

Artist's Palette Death Valley National Park California

The Artist’s Palette viewpoint is breathtaking!

Drive back to the main road and continue north towards Stovepipe Wells, where you can hike at Mosaic Canyon. Stretch your legs and see the beautiful marbled walls of the canyon. Finally, marvel at the amazing Mesquite Sand Dunes, the undulating hills of gold sand at Death Valley.

Retrace your route south and back to Vegas the way you came, or continue north to the ghost town of Rhyolite and then on to Beatty and down to Vegas.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: Spring, fall, and winter are all great times to visit.
Driving Distance: 125 miles via NV160-W and CA190-W
Driving Time: About 2.5 hours
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. Death Valley National Park is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

Like the idea of a guided tour? Check out this minivan tour of Death Valley NP from Vegas: the 10-hour tour takes you through all the major sights in the park!

READ MORE: 7 MUST-SEE, MUST-DO EXPERIENCES IN DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK!

#2 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is only about 15 miles from the Strip, but you can easily spend a full day here, so it counts as a day trip from Las Vegas. In fact, because this beautiful wilderness area is so close, it’s actually one of the best day trips from Las Vegas you can do.

WHAT TO DO IN RED ROCK CANYON IN ONE DAY

First, do the 13-mile one-way scenic drive around the park, to get an overview of the different vistas in the park. You’ll see intense red rock formations, followed by more muted but still magnificent panoramas. Then head right back into the park to delve deeper into its attractions.

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas Nevada

The scenic drive through Red Rock

You can access Calico Hills, the gorgeous red rock formation you see close to the entrance, via a trail that starts at the Visitor Center and ends at Sandstone Quarry. Get on to the trail at one of several points along its length, and walk as far as you like before turning back. This trail gets you right up into the striking red rock of the most stunning formation in the park, and is a must-do.

Stunning red rock formation at Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas

You can get up close to the stunning red rocks!

After a picnic lunch at a shady spot, pick another trail to enjoy the wild beauty of another part of the park. Try the Ice Box Canyon Trail, or the Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail. Both trails offer fabulous views and wildflowers in the spring.

Apart from hiking (the park offers two dozen plus trails of varying difficulty), you can also bike and do rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: Spring, fall, and winter are all great times to visit
Driving Distance: 16 miles
Driving Time: About 30 minutes
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. Red Rock Canyon is a Federal Recreation Area, and is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

#3 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park

With a multitude of magnificent red sandstone formations, the 40,000-acre Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest State Park. The road that connects its east and west entrances has been designated a Nevada Scenic Byway and is made for epic road photos. You’ll be constantly exclaiming in awe as you drive this route.

Beautiful vistas at Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

Beautiful vista at Valley of Fire

WHAT TO DO IN VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK IN ONE DAY

Explore the sites where you can see petroglyphs left behind by the Anasazi that inhabited the region in ancient times. You can see fine examples at Atlatl Rock (you have to climb some metal steps to the top of the rock), or at Petroglyph Canyon, a half-mile trek from the trailhead at the Mouse’s Tank viewpoint. Also don’t miss the Beehive near the park’s west entrance, and the Elephant Rock, near the park’s east entrance.

Petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

Petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire offers a number of hikes of varying difficulty. Try the Fire Wave Trail, starting at Parking Lot #3 in the park. A 30-minute walk from the trailhead through areas of sand, packed earth, and rock leads to a gorgeous rock formation marked with undulating wave patterns, similar to its more famous namesake in Page, Arizona. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep and other creatures that call the park home.

The Fire Wave Trail Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

The Fire Wave at Valley of Fire

Or pick the stunning White Domes trail at Valley of Fire. This trail, a little over one mile long, even includes a short slot canyon. The views all along the trail are wonderful, and a little ways into the hike, you can see the remnants of a film set from many years ago.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: Spring, fall, and winter are all great times to visit
Driving Distance: 53 miles
Driving Time: About one hour
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here.

GUIDED TOURS

If you don’t have a car, you can opt for a guided tour to the Valley of Fire State Park. A guided hiking tour is also available.

#4 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Lake Mead Recreational Area

Lake Mead Recreational Area is enormous, so you’ll only explore a little bit of it on a day trip from Las Vegas. If you drive to the park via Boulder City, you will enter the park at the Alan Bible Visitor Center.

A view of Lake Mead Nevada

WHAT TO DO AT LAKE MEAD IN ONE DAY

Start by walking part of the Historic Railroad Trail used by the trains to deliver the materials used in the construction of Hoover Dam. Next, head to the nearest marina, to rent a boat. Getting out on the water is a great way to enjoy the beautiful views all around.

Lake Mead Nevada

Then drive the scenic Lakeshore Road. Have a picnic lunch at one of the many picnic areas along the drive. Explore some of the turnoffs and short trails to great water views.

View of Lake Mead Nevada

For more great views and a relaxed afternoon, take a cruise of the Boulder Basin on the Desert Princess. Cruises depart from Hemenway Harbor. For a more active water activity, rent a kayak or canoe at Willow Beach and explore the waters of scenic Black Canyon.

End your day with a walk along part of the 35-mile River Mountains Loop Trail, which runs along the western shore of the lake.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: All year long
Driving Distance: 31.5 miles
Driving Time: About 40 minutes
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. Lake Mead is a Federal Recreation Area, and is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

#5 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam and Boulder City

Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and a visit to the dam is one of the best day trips you can do from Las Vegas.

When you see the Hoover Dam, you’ll find it difficult to believe that it was constructed more than 80 years ago, before the age of computers. Considered a great engineering feat, the dam is located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the dam, is the largest reservoir in the USA when it is full.

Hoover Dam Nevada

WHAT TO DO AT HOOVER DAM AND BOULDER CITY IN ONE DAY

Take one of two tour options available for an in-depth look at the dam. You’ll view informative exhibits and tour the power plant or the power plant and parts of the dam itself, depending on the tour you choose. Seeing those mighty generators is an awesome experience.

Hoover Dam Nevada

Next, head to the Observation Deck on the top floor of the Visitor Center for Instagram-worthy views of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. After you exit, cross the street to view the Winged Figures of the Republic, a large bronze sculptural piece designed by Oskar Hansen.

Winged Figures of the Republic Lake Mead Nevada

Winged Figures of the Republic

In Boulder City, visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Ride a train on a historic route, passing by the first casino in Nevada. In days gone by, the trains transported the materials used to build the Hoover Dam.

Also don’t miss the Boulder Dam Hotel, which was built in 1933, during the Great Depression, and is on the National Historic Register. On the second floor, you can tour a museum on the Great Depression and the impact of the Hoover Dam on the economy. Finally, walk the historic main street of Boulder City, for art deco architecture and great photo ops.

PLAN YOuR VISIT

Best time to visit: All year long
Driving Distance: 36 miles
Driving Time: About 45 minutes
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees to Hoover Dam, click here. For entrance fees to the Railroad Museum, click here.

Do a guided tour to the Hoover Dam! This highly rated tour offers a 45-minute Walk on the Top tour, along with a tour of the power plant and the visitor center. You’ll get fabulous photos! Lunch and entrance are included.

#6 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Utah’s first national park makes for one of the most fabulous day trips from Las Vegas you can do. Humans have lived in and around Zion for 10,000 years! With its stunning red and pink sandstone cliffs, and its wealth of flora and fauna, Zion National Park offers a variety of activities for the day visitor.

Zion National Park Utah

WHAT TO DO AT ZION NP IN ONE DAY

Start at the Visitor Center, and attend a Ranger presentation if one if being offered around the time you reach. Then, in season, use the free shuttle to get around the park, as private cars are not allowed when the shuttles are running. The Zion Canyon Shuttle stops at nine locations on the scenic drive through the park.

The Canyon offers you the opportunity to explore on foot. There are a number of trails of varying difficulty leading from the shuttle route. Try the easy Lower Emerald Pool trail from Zion Lodge. The trail is a little over a mile out and back, and leads to the pool and waterfalls. From the lower pool, you can choose to continue on a moderately difficult trail, to the Upper Emerald Pool.

Or try the easy Riverside Walk, from the Temple of Sinawava. This is a little over two miles out and back, and follows the Virgin River at the bottom of the canyon.

Zion National Park Utah

Following the path of the Virgin River at Zion

Zion is known for two famous hikes: Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Both involve a significant time commitment and you’d want to plan a longer stay at Zion to enjoy one or both of these hikes.

Zion National Park, Utah

After you explore the park, if you have the time, drive the scenic route to Mt. Carmel before you head back. The route follows the Virgin River and offers numerous stunning photo ops.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: Spring and fall are beautiful times to visit. Fall foliage generally peaks in the first two weeks of November.
Driving Distance: 163.6 miles
Driving Time: About 2 hours and 45 minutes
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. Zion National Park is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

GUIDED TOUR

You can join a small group guided tour that combines Zion and Bryce. You get a decent amount of time at each park, and it’s an efficient way to combine two parks in one day if you are short on time.

#7 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce National Park is a wonderland of hoodoos. In fact, at Bryce, you can see the largest concentration of hoodoos anywhere on the planet! Hoodoos are vertical rock pillars that are formed by the erosive action of water on limestone.

The park’s unique landscape and stunning rock pillars make for wonderful vistas. Bryce Canyon is not huge, so you can explore the highlights in a day.

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best day trips from Las Vegas you can do!

WHAT TO DO AT BRYCE CANYON NP IN ONE DAY

Bryce is home to tons of birds and animals. You can see Peregrine falcons, wild turkeys, jays and swallows, and even the mighty California condor. You can also see many species of mammals here. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you explore the park!

Deer at Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Stop at the Visitor Center, to see the short film that tells you about the park, and to pick up a map. Start your exploration of the park by driving the Rim Trail to take in the views from the various scenic points. Or take the park shuttle, in season. The four major stops are Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The stunning hoodoos at Bryce

Next, do one or more of the several short hikes at Bryce. The Queens Garden trail is considered the easiest trail into the canyon. It’s 1.8 miles round trip. For a short moderate hike, try the Navajo Trail for a slot canyon experience. This trail begins at Sunset Point and goes down into the amphitheater. It’s a more forested trail, with lots of Douglas Firs.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: You can visit Bryce all year round, although you may see snow dusting that wonderful red rock in winter.
Driving Distance: 263.4 miles
Driving Time: About four hours
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. Bryce National Park is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

GUIDED TOUR

If you’d rather not drive, you can join a small group guided tour that combines Zion and Bryce. The tour is especially useful if you have limited time in the area but wish to see the highlights of both parks.

#8 Day Trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim

If you just can’t spend more than a day on a visit to the Grand Canyon, you must at least do a day trip to the South Rim. If you drive yourself, be prepared for a long day of driving.

The South Rim is the Grand Canyon you must see: the actual National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. (Although you can visit the West Rim, it’s not part of the National Park.) At almost 277 miles long, the gorge carved by the Colorado River is as deep as 18 miles in places. That is one deep hole!

Grand Canyon Arizona

WHAT TO DO AT THE GRAND CANYON IN ONE DAY

Start at the Visitor Center in the Village, but before you step in, walk to Mather Point for that OMG moment when you get your first look at the magnificent Grand Canyon.

At the Visitor Center, view the short film to get an introduction to the park. From the Village, you can drive to either the Hermit’s Rest or Desert View, stopping at the various scenic points along the route. Then return to the Village and do the other side. Free shuttles operate in season if you want a break from driving, but on the Desert View side, they go only a part of the way. From end to end, the drive is about 30 miles.

Grand Canyon Arizona

View from Mojave Point at the Grand Canyon

View one or two of the historic structures in the park: the old El Tovar Hotel, the Train Depot, and Hopi House are all great choices for touring, to get a feel for the history of the park.

And finally, you have to walk at least a little way down into the Canyon, to complete your experience. The Bright Angel trail and the South Kaibab trail are the most famous. Remember that you have to climb back uphill on the return, so go only as far as you feel comfortable.

Grand Canyon Arizona

Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point!

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: You can visit the Grand Canyon all year round. In the summer months, you’ll experience  crowds at the popular spots, so try to visit in March-April, or in October, for still pleasant weather but less crowds.
Driving Distance: 277.9 miles
Driving Time: About five hours
Entrance Fee: For current entrance fees, click here. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is included in the list of parks that can be accessed with an Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Pass.

GUIDED TOUR

Several guided bus tours are offered from Las Vegas, both to the South Rim and to the West Rim. You can also splurge on a helicopter tour or an airplane tour!

Check out this highly rated airplane tour that includes a deluxe ride to the South Rim in an executive-style plane! At the South Rim you’ll have time to hike and enjoy the views before returning to Vegas.

#9 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Mt. Charleston

The highest peak in the Spring Mountains, Mt. Charleston is a great year-round day trip option from Las Vegas. In the summer, the cooler temperatures offer a welcome respite from the heat in the city. Changing leaves in the fall and wildflowers in the spring offer color. In the winter, snow covers the area and turns it into a wonderland.

Joshua Tree on the route to Mt. Charleston Nevada

A Joshua Tree on the route to Mt. Charleston Photo Credit: Gwen at Gwensfootprints

WHAT TO DO AT MT. CHARLESTON IN ONE DAY

If you hike, you will find trails of varying difficulty levels at Spring Mountain National Recreation Area.  Some trails actually lead to the peak of Mt. Charleston, almost 12,000 feet above sea level.

Try the Sawmill Trail, an easy trail of about 2.6 miles through pinyon and juniper trees with lots of wildflowers in season. For great views over the Mojave Desert, walk the short distance to the Desert View Overlook.

For a much more challenging experience, hike the Cathedral Rock Trail to the summit. This trail features spectacular wildflowers in the summer, and there’s a fabulous view from the top. Break your day with a relaxed picnic lunch at one of the many picnic areas in the park.

The drive through the area is scenic, with lots of photo ops. You can also bike and climb. And enjoy the flora and fauna, and the wildflowers that carpet the area from spring through fall.

Columbine on a trail at Mt. Charleston in Nevada

Pretty columbine at Mt. Charleston Photo credit: Gwen at Gwensfootprints

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: You can visit Mt. Charleston all year round. I enjoyed our visit in the summer, when temperatures are pleasant and hiking is enjoyable.
Driving Distance: 43 miles
Driving Time: About 45 minutes

#10 Day Trip from Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

On this day trip from Vegas, you can see two iconic spots in the American Southwest. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon that is incredibly popular with visitors from all over the world. At Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River has carved an almost circular canyon, the stuff of dream Instagram photos. Both spots are located near the town of Page in Arizona.

WHAT TO DO AT ANTELOPE CANYON & HORSESHOE BEND IN ONE DAY

At Antelope Canyon, walk the corridors carved by the erosive action of wind and water over thousands of years. Look for the beams of sunlight that cut through the curvy walls to create that perfect photo you’ll treasure.

There are actually two very similar canyons: the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. The light filtering phenomenon is more reliable in the Upper Antelope Canyon, but as a result it’s usually more crowded. It’s easier and quicker to access, whereas the Lower Antelope Canyon requires a walk and climbing down a staircase.

Antelope Canyon Arizona

At Horseshoe Bend, walk up to the edge of the viewing area and look down at the perfect blue-green horseshoe-shaped river below. And take a million photos. Just be warned that the scenic overlook is hugely popular and finding a parking spot can be challenging. Allow for extra time in case you can’t find a parking spot and have to return.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Best time to visit: To see the famous light beams, you should visit between May and September. Around mid-day is the best time of day to see the light beams.
Driving Distance from Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon: 284.5 miles
Driving Time: About 4 hours and 45 minutes
From Antelope Canyon to Horseshoe Bend: 9.9 miles
Driving Time: About 15 minutes

GUIDED TOUR

If you’d rather sit back and enjoy the sights, consider joining a small group tour! It’s a long day, but you get to see the two amazing sights without having to drive.

General Tips and Suggestions for Day Trips from Las Vegas

Here are some general tips and suggestions to consider:

SELF-DRIVING VS. ALTERNATIVES FOR LONGER TRIPS

As you can see, some of these trips involve several hours of driving each way. I would suggest doing these day trips as self-drives only if you have at least two drivers. Start early in the day, to allow for at least a few hours at your destination before you have to start the drive back.

Alternatively, consider a ground coach tour. While it does not cut down on the length of the day, you can relax in the coach instead of driving. Or, if your pocketbook allows, splurge on a combination air and ground tour to shorten the transit time. Plus, you’ll get fabulous aerial views. The advantage to driving yourself is, of course, the freedom to do what you want at the destination, wait as long as needed for perfect photos, and head back when you want.

MAPS & DIRECTIONS

If you are driving yourself (and we did, for the many day trips from Las Vegas we have done), print out hard copy driving directions (all legs of your route to and fro) and related maps. You may not always have good cellphone reception in the desert.

GAS

Make sure your gas tank is topped up before you leave Las Vegas, and know where gas is available on your route for the day. In many of these areas, gas stations wil be few and far between.

FOOD & DRINK

Invest in a cooler and load it with beverages and food for the day. Also carry non-perishable snacks and fruit. Local options for food at many of your destinations will be non-existent at worst and mediocre at best.

So that’s my round-up of the 10 most fabulous day trips from Las Vegas. Which ones have you done and which ones are on your bucket list? Comment below to respond! And if you are looking for fun things to do in Las Vegas that aren’t gambling or partying, check out my awesome list here!

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Click to discover the best day trips from Las Vegas! From mountains to canyons and desert to rivers, there is lots to explore just outside Sin City!

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2 comments on “10 Best Day Trips from Las Vegas You Must Do!

  1. I loved reading this post Dhara. It bought back memories of some of the stunning sights we enjoyed when we did a trip from Las Vegas. I appreciate how you set the post out, particularly the “Plan your trip” section. The canyons and National Parks we visited out from Las Vegas was our favourite part of our US trip. Each destination is so very different and all very spectacular. If only I could visit all the areas you have listed!

    • Thanks so much, Estelle! Las Vegas truly makes for a great base for some fabulous destinations. I am so glad you were able to see some of the great parks in the area. Hopefully you will come back and see the rest!

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