Located in the middle of the Mojave Desert and surrounded by stunning desert scenery, Las Vegas is one of the most famous and exciting entertainment hubs on earth. The fact that a city sprung up in one of the most arid climates in the US is quite a surprise but there it is…thriving. We’ve all seen the lore of Las Vegas in movies and television where people visit the city and either make it big or lose everything to gambling. It always seems like quite the whirlwind experience and, really, who doesn’t want to create their own Las Vegas movie moments? The city is jam packed with things to see and do so it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination. While the Las Vegas is a fantastically fun place to visit, venturing outside the city will lead you to places that will definitely put you in a state of awe and take your breath away. During my visit, I actually did leave the city a few times to discover the best day trips from Las Vegas.
I know it can be daunting deciding to leave a city your visiting to see or experience something new. That’s why I’ve done the hard work for you and picked out some of the best and most popular day trips from Las Vegas. All you have to do is choose one or a few and go!
Why I Love Las Vegas
When Alfred first invited me to travel with him to Las Vegas for one of his work trips, I initially refused. I simply did not understand why there is so much hype about this city and had no desire to visit. But he convinced me to go and I am pretty happy that I decided to give Las Vegas a chance. This city is fabulous and kitsch in both expected and surprising ways. With thousands of different things for visitors to do, there’s something to experience for everyone. You could just relax by a pool or try your luck at a slot machine. Maybe you might enjoy experiencing the insane thrills of driving construction machinery, watch a world class show, visit the location of your favorite TV show, or explore some quirky museums. Personally, I enjoyed hitting up the Roulette tables, trying to eat at every buffet, and heading downtown to check out the vintage neon signs. Whatever your taste might be, there is definitely something for you in Las Vegas.
I happen to think the absurdity of the city is what makes it such a special place. If you’ve never really thought about visiting Las Vegas, you need to give it a chance at least once. Take it from me, the guy who was completely skeptical of the city and had already decided he’d never visit. It’s a pretty fun place.
Outside Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a city that is sure to keep you entertained with its extravagance and never ending entertainment. But if you take a break from the bright lights and delightful chaos of the city, you’ll discover a wealth of natural wonders. The city’s location in the midst of an incredible, arid desert environment means exploring the great outdoors is more than in your grasp and you’ll likely experience things you’ve never experienced before. From giant canyons to beautiful rock formations to breathtaking views, if you love nature then the areas surrounding Las Vegas have a lot to offer. It’s also a really great way to take a break from the city and get a little peace and fresh air.
Now, you’re planning that bucket list trip to Las Vegas and you know which casino you’ll stay at, what shows you’ll see, and what restaurants you’re dying to try out …and you want to add in a little adventure outside the city. But where do you go? Don’t worry. There are a number of amazing destinations to visit both near and slightly farther away from Las Vegas. I am going to give you some details about 10 great day trips from Las Vegas you can take on your own. You’ll need to rent a car for all of these as there are really no public transportation options heading out to the desert and definitely not to most of these destinations. However, you may be able to join a tour for some of these destinations. I’ve got all the information you need below so let’s dive right in.
Seven Magic Mountains
For a fairly quick and easy day trip, venture just 30 minutes south of Las Vegas to check out a perfectly instagrammable art installation in the desert. Seven Magic Mountains is a massive public art installation located near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15 that is easily accessible by car. You could even take an Uber for this day trip. The larger than life installation was created by internationally renowned Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone and is comprised of seven colorful towers of stacked boulders. The towers stand at more than 35 feet tall and punctuate the surrounding Mohave Desert with bursts of bright colors. The exhibit was originally produced by the Nevada Museum of Art and Art Production Fund in 2016 and was intended to be on view for only two years. However, it is a very popular and the exhibit will remain through the end of 2021 as of now.
Red Rock Canyon
For one more of those easy day trips from Las Vegas sure to inspire, head approximately 25 minutes west to Red Rock Canyon. This day trip is perfect for the mild outdoor enthusiast because it features a one-way 13-mile scenic drive with places you can stop and take in the view. Therefore, you can see the entire park and some pretty incredible nature scenes without having to hike or climb. Nevertheless, if you’re up for a hike then there is plenty of opportunity to get active. The park has miles of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, petroglyphs, canyon views, and the remains of an 1890s-era mining operation.
Valley of Fire
For some incredible scenery, you should make your way to Valley of Fire State Park located about an hour northeast of Las Vegas. Spanning over 40,000 acres, this park is famous for its red Aztec sandstone rock formations that are over 150 million years old. You can take some incredible photographs at this park, as well as camp and picnic. The park has a number of campsites with tables, grills, and water. Another interesting feature of the park is Wifi service which you can purchase access to so all your photos and Instagram updates can be uploaded as you go. If you don’t feel like hiking you can drive through park and make stops at several of the vista points for photos and to see the colors. It’s definitely worth getting away from the bright lights of Vegas to check out this natural wonder.
The Grand Canyon really doesn’t need much explanation. It is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks and destinations in the entire world. Both a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as a National Park, the Grand Canyon is visited by more than 5 million people annually. The national park spans an area of 1,902 square miles and features the Colorado River as well as layered bands of red rock eroded away by the same river revealing millions of years of geological history. There are many ways to get to and see the Grand Canyon. For instance, you can take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon with Papillon Helicopters or Maverick Helicopters. You can also check it our via a flightseeing tour, motorcycle tour, bus tour, or just drive to the park yourself. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon is a truly humbling experience and will definitely take your breath away.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
America’s first and largest national recreation area is located in southeastern Nevada and northeastern Arizona. The Lake Mead National Recreation area is only about half an hour from Las Vegas and features Joshua trees, slot canyons and some incredible stargazing. This national park span 1.5 million acres and offers water activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming, shaded picnic areas, trails, and camping. With such a large footprint, it’s incredibly easy to explore this park in relative isolation. It’s the perfect place to get away but also to have some incredible experiences in nature. It’s also a fairly quick and easy one of those day trips from Las Vegas. So get out there and enjoy some nature.
Death Valley seems like a rather foreboding place to visit to most. I mean, it is called Death Valley afterall. The national park is located only 130 miles away from Las Vegas which is an approximat two-hour drive and is perfect if you want to explore a unique desert environment that is the lowest, driest, and hottest place in North America. The national park is also the largest in the lower 48 states covering an area of over 3000 square miles. You can see a wide range of topography, geological formations, and colorful landmarks during this day trip. Do it as part of a tour or on your own by renting a car. If you do it on your own, make sure to start as early as possible to make the best use of your time.
The Hoover Dam is a modern feat of human engineering that is also a popular tourist attraction for visitors spending time in Las Vegas. Built to protect the surrounding communities from the flooding Colorado River, the Hoover Dam is comprised of 6.6 million tons of concrete and poured as individual blocks in the 1930s. Each block has to be poured individually to allow it to dry quicker because if it had all been poured at once, it would still be drying today. It also produces approximately 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectricity per year for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Each year approximately 1 million people visit this architectural wonder. While this isn’t really my type of attraction, I do understand the appeal. You can book a tour of the Hoover Dam through the Bureau of Reclamation if your interested.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
If you’ve ever wanted to live out your wild west, ghost adventure fantasy then you should make time to visit the Rhyolite Ghost Town located on the Nevada border. The town was founded during a gold rush in the early 1900s and lasted as long as the gold rush. By 1919 the town was mostly deserted and in 1924 its last resident died. The town was built with long lasting materials such as adobe and glass so there’s plenty to see and explore. This makes it unique to most gold rush era towns. The abandoned town is located about 2 hours from Las Vegas so is an easy day trip though it will take a good portion of your day so plan accordingly.
Zion National Park
This is probably one of the most incredible and beautiful national parks I have ever visited and one of the most amazing day trips from Las Vegas. Zion National Park is located Southwestern Utah and will take you approximately 2.5 hours to get to by car. That means you will definitely need to start early and maybe even plant to spend 2 days visiting this national park. We went for one day and really wished we added another day to do it real justice. The closest large airport to Zion National Park is located in Las Vegas so its the only realistic way to visit. The park is one giant nature preserve so you are likely to see dear and other wildlife if you keep your eyes peeled. The biggest attraction in the park is the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive which cuts through the main part of the park. It’s an easy drive and great way to see what the park has to offer as it leads to forest trails along the Virgin River and the views are breathtaking. Trust me…you will be so glad you decided to trek out on this long day trip.
For more travel inspiration, check out my top travel moments so far!
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