Las Vegas is celebrated as the City That Never Sleeps, but let’s face it: All that non-stop neon can really take its toll. Take a breather and experience all that the amazing Silver State has to offer with the best day trips from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Vegas may be Nevada’s epicenter, but there are so many other spectacular places to discover! Immerse yourself in the magnificent landscapes of Death Valley National Park over the border in California. Kayak or cruise on Lake Mead, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Experience a power surge at the electrifying Hoover Dam, or get a Rocky Mountain high in the pine-scented foothills around historic Boulder City.
Ready to get off the glittering grid? Grab this guide to the top-rated Las Vegas side trips and nix the neon!
Top-rated Las Vegas side trips
If you can only fit in one day trip from Las Vegas, make it to the world-famous Grand Canyon. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world, this stunning landscape spans a massive 1,900 square miles.
Stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon to take in the jaw-dropping sight: the vivid red rock layers you’re looking at date back over a million years and run more than a mile deep. In one word: it’s “breathtaking.”
The Grand Canyon is vast, so don’t expect to cover it all. Zero in on the popular, family-friendly South Rim. Drop into the Visitor Center to learn about the canyon’s history, hiking trails, and popular attractions – then head out to experience the real thing.
Hit the trail that leads to Mather Point Overlook. One of the Grand Canyon’s most popular scenic lookouts, this is a great starting point for many top-rated scenic trails. It also hosts a wide variety of ranger-led programs and adventure activities that’ll be a hit with everyone in your crew.
Take your pick of unique ways to soak up the stunning scenery. Soar above it all by helicopter. Skydive, take a hummer tour, saddle up for a mule ride, or get your adrenaline pumping with some white water rafting on the mighty Colorado River that cuts through the canyon.
Grand Canyon West
Up for an adrenaline rush? Whether it’s walking the sky, soaring through the air, or running the rapids, you’ll get your fill of thrills at Grand Canyon West. A two-hour drive from the South Rim, this part of the Grand Canyon is one of the region’s most popular day trips.
Head for Eagle Point, where you’ll be awestruck by incredible views through the glass-bottomed Grand Canyon Skywalk. This spectacular structure juts 70 feet out over Grand Canyon West’s western rim. Keep yourself steady as you look down to the valley floor over 4,000 feet below.
Get a bird’s eye view as you soar over the Grand Canyon’s amazing rock formations in a helicopter or take flight on a zipline. Explore the canyon-carving Colorado River on a pontoon, or hit the rapids for a whitewater adventure.
The ancestral homeland of the Hualapai people, this magical landscape is home to a thriving community with a rich cultural heritage.
Take a self-guided tour through an authentic Native American village with its traditional homes and sweat lodges. Witness captivating performances of the traditional music and dance of the People of the Tall Pines.
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Want a longer stay? Book a cabin on Hualapai Ranch and savor a front-porch view of the blazing sunset over the West Rim.
Valley of Fire State Park
Want to explore a Nevada icon that really lives up to its name? Hit the road and head for the world-renowned Valley of Fire State Park. With its brilliant fiery hues, this ancient sea of red Aztec sandstone is a dazzling feast for the eyes and a favorite with rock climbers.
Set on the northern tip of Lake Mead in the Mojave Desert, Valley of Fire State Park was shaped over millions of years – and it looks as dramatic as its name sounds. Venture into this amazing landscape of spectacular rock formations, vivid colors, and 2,000-year-old petroglyphs and immerse yourself in an other-worldly experience.
Valley of Fire State Park boasts 40,000 acres of multicolored rock formations, incredible sandstone arches, hidden caves and canyons, ancient petrified trees, and prehistoric petroglyphs. Head down the Scenic Loop Road to Atlatl Rock, and you’ll discover a treasure trove of stunning rock carvings dating back over 3,000 years.
The landscape may be imposing, but the experience is family-friendly – and it’s less than an hour from Las Vegas! Valley of Fire State Park offers a bevy of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking trails for all skill levels.
Drop into the Visitor Center to learn more about this fascinating slice of prehistory.
Mojave National Preserve
You’ve heard the legendary name: now experience the real thing. Book a spot on your day trip list for the Mojave National Preserve. Set in Southern California, about an hour from Las Vegas, this remote preserve and wildlife refuge is home to a rich mosaic of ecological habitats.
Explore the Mojave National Preserve’s diverse desert landscape. You’ll discover unique plant life, massive sand dunes, deep canyons, abandoned mines, and historic military outposts. You’ll also get an awesome view of petroglyphs – the handiwork of the Native American peoples that inhabited the area thousands of years ago.
Mojave National Preserve is packed with natural wonders. And there are plenty of ways to experience them, whether it’s backpacking, biking, off-roading, or horseback riding.
Discover the millennia-old Kelso Dunes, among the oldest sand dunes in the country. Hike the popular Rings Loop Trail to scope out the other-worldly landscape and view ancient rock carvings. Hit the Teutonia Peak Trail for up-close-and-fabulous views of Joshua trees, the icons of the Mojave Desert.
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Be sure to pack your camera and keep your eyes peeled for sightings of local wildlife like mountain lions, coyotes, and even wild horses.
Can’t get enough? Pitch your tent or hook up your RV at the Hole in the Wall campground for a night under the stars.
If you’re in the mood to do some oohing and aahing, the spectacular Hoover Dam will give you plenty to gawk at. One of the world’s most iconic manmade structures, this historical landmark is nestled within a beautiful natural environment. And it’s just a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas – making it a perfect one-day tour.
Towering 726 feet over Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the US – the Hoover Dam straddles the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. Built by thousands of workers in the 1930s, this Art Deco marvel is an amazing Depression-era feat of engineering.
Head to the Visitor Center and take a self-guided walk through its narrated exhibits to learn more about the site’s fascinating history. Then take a stroll along the top of the dam, savor the incredible scenery, and check out the information plaques that line the walkway. For great photo ops, stake out a spot on the mammoth Hoover Dam Bridge, the second tallest bridge in the US.
Want to get the inside scoop? Book yourself into one of the Hoover Dam tours, and venture into the heart of the dam, explore the original construction tunnels, hear the fascinating backstory, and see the dam at work in the power plant. Then ride up to the observation deck for a VIP view.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Craving a shot of fresh air and gorgeous desert views without spending hours in transit? The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area will hit the spot. You can make the move from neon to nature in under 30 minutes – making it a perfect day trip from Las Vegas.
Start with a 13-mile scenic drive to take in the stunning scenery of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Then explore over 26 hiking trails – ranging from newbie to expert – that span the canyon.
Take the path leading to Willow Springs, and you’ll discover a bounty of petroglyphs dating back over 800 years. Make your way through Ice Box Canyon to experience an amazing transition from desert temperatures to an ice-cold waterfall.
No need to leave the kiddos behind! The Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail will inspire the pint-sized set to explore the wilderness. Adventurers of all ages will get a kick out of Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, a one-time working ranch that’s home to historic buildings just waiting to be explored. Saddle up for a ride, do some rock climbing or hit the hiking trails.
Check out the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area event calendar for their roster of guided hikes and nature programs.
Death Valley National Park
Want to experience one of the most astounding destinations on Earth? Then head about two hours northwest of Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park. Set in the Mojave Desert in California, this iconic site is one of the hottest and driest environments in the world – and also one of the most intriguing.
Don’t let the name fool you: Designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, Death Valley National Park teems with life. The richly diverse landscape ranges from windswept dunes to snow-capped mountain peaks to lush wildflower fields.
With over three million acres of designated wilderness and miles of trails and roads, there’s loads to discover on foot, by bike, or by car. Grab your camera and binoculars for wildlife sightings.
Take in world-famous vistas from the iconic Zabriskie Point, a favorite location for viewing the sunrise and sunset. Are you a Star Wars fan? Then you’ll want to scope out the film-shoot settings for “Tatooine” (Luke Skywalker’s home planet) that are scattered throughout Death Valley.
And speaking of things extraterrestrial: If you really want to view a galaxy far, far away, just stay until nightfall. Gaze up in awe at some of the darkest skies in the world – and drink in a spectacular display of the Milky Way.
Is the truth really out there? If you’re even mildly curious, you’ll want to cruise down the Extraterrestrial Highway to Area 51 – a US Air Force base in the southern Nevada desert that has mythic status among UFO enthusiasts. According to the lore, the military base is actually a cover for some shady alien research being conducted by the US military.
You can’t keep a good conspiracy theory down. Area 51 is restricted, but that doesn’t stem the tourist tide. You can book a full-day tour (complete with lunch) from Las Vegas.
Or head out on your own steam to do some “investigating” at the Alien Research Center, 20 miles from Area 51. When you spot a giant silver alien standing roadside, you’ve arrived. Brace yourself with a shot of Alien Tequila, then check out the center’s “alien autopsy” photos and browse some eye-popping swag that includes Alien Invasion underwear.
Dock your spaceship at Area 51’s nearest human settlement: tiny, quirky Rachel, Nevada. Population 50, but it’s “the UFO Capitol of the World.”
Hit the local watering hole/restaurant/hotel, the Little A-Le-Inn (get it?). Scarf down an “alien burger,” quaff an Alien Amber Ale, check out an other-worldly array of souvenirs, discuss alien abductions with friendly locals, and scope out the night sky for UFOs.
Believer or just curious, weirdness awaits.
If you’re looking for an ideal blend of small-town charm and outdoor adventure, you can’t do better than Boulder City. Less than 30 miles from Las Vegas and the gateway to Lake Mead, this vibrant mountain community has it all: great outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and a bustling cultural scene.
Originally built to house the Hoover Dam construction workers, Boulder City was the region’s lively epicenter during the 1930s. Today, it’s a magnet for both history enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. You can hike the iconic Rocky Mountain Flatirons, bike across the Continental Divide, kayak the tumbling Colorado River, or schuss down snow-covered slopes.
Want to explore? Stroll Pearl Street for a great selection of boutiques and antique shops. Check out the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Or browse the Colorado Museum of Contemporary Art.
When you’re ready to kick back, Boulder’s got you covered. Sit back and sample at one of the town’s renowned breweries. Then snag a spot at one of the many cafes and restaurants for a mouthwatering meal.
Not ready to leave? No problem. Treat yourself to a stay at the beautifully restored Boulder Dam Hotel (circa 1933), one of the town’s historic jewels.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Want to nail down a waterside day trip that lets you be as lively or laid-back as you want to be? Head for Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and you’ll discover an abundance of natural attractions and water activities for every taste.
Just over 30 minutes from Las Vegas, this recreational gem is home to one of the largest man-made lakes in the world – so the possibilities are endless!
Boasting 1.5 million acres of blue waters, canyons, and mountains, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the largest recreational site in the US and the source of much of the Southwest’s hydroelectric power.
This gorgeous wilderness area offers a spectacular backdrop for hiking, biking, and off-roading. And 550 miles of shoreline guarantee a boatload of water-based action.
Take to the trails on foot, horseback, or ATV. Visit the ghost town of St. Thomas, a Mormon settlement dating back to 1865.
When you’re ready to cool off, head lakeside, unpack a picnic on the shore, and take in the stunning scenery. Swim, scuba dive, fish, kayak, or hop on a cruise boat for a glorious guided tour.
Most tours depart from Boulder City – so while you’re exploring the Berkeley of the Rockies, don’t book yourself in for an unforgettable experience at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
St. George, UT
If you’re hankering for a spot that offers a combination of small-town warmth and outdoor adventure, set your sights on St. George, UT. A two-hour drive from Las Vegas, this small Mormon settlement has blossomed into a hub for tourism.
Set against the red rocks of southern Utah, St. George offers plenty to discover. Explore stately 19th-century buildings such as the Pioneer Courthouse and Brigham Young Winter Home. Browse fascinating historical photos and works by regional artists at the St. George Art Museum before checking out the town’s quaint shops and vintage stores.
Make St. George your jumping-off point for outdoor adventure. Explore the spectacular dunes and lava tubes of nearby Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. Take a scenic two-hour road trip to view the breathtaking sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park. Hit the hiking trails, or slip into the saddle for a trail ride through Zion Canyon. Delve deep into amazing slot canyons, or test your climbing skills on the rugged rock face.
Combine your Zion visit with a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, another outdoor adventure option offering world-class hiking and plenty of room for ATV exploring.
If you’re looking for a destination that offers a heaping helping of recreation and entertainment options, you’ll find it in Laughlin, Nevada. Set on the shores of the Colorado River 90 miles south of Las Vegas, this lively resort town ranks as one of the favorite day trips from Sin City.
If outdoor activity is the name of your game, you’ll find plenty at Lake Mohave. Just north of Laughlin, Lake Mohave is a striking manmade reservoir on the Colorado River that straddles the Nevada and Arizona border. Whether you’re up for swimming, fishing, hiking, boating, or horseback riding – you’ll find it here. And if you want to stretch out your visit, just pitch a tent and stay the night.
Prefer to stay in town? Explore the Laughlin Riverwalk, a lovely scenic trail set along the Colorado River. Stroll or cycle the pathway to soak in the sights.
If you’re into the nightlife, stick around to experience Laughlin after dark. Casino-resort destinations line the riverside and offer a wide range of entertainment.
Feeling lucky? Check out the Golden Nugget Casino, one of the most popular gaming spots in Laughlin. This huge complex includes a 300-room hotel, a gaming casino, various dining options, live entertainment, and retail outlets.