If you’ve never ventured off the Strip, you might not know what lies beyond the streets of Las Vegas. Sin City may be located on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert, but if you’re looking to spend some time away from the flurry of Las Vegas, there’s no shortage of stunning scenery to see or interesting things to do a short drive outside the city limits. And, luckily, some of the most breathtaking sights in the Southwest aren’t located that far away from the Strip. Interested in a short road trip? Check out Red Rock Canyon! Don’t mind adding a few more miles to your drive? Beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park is only a few hours away.
Let’s take a closer look at these special spots:
1. Red Rock Canyon
Distance from Las Vegas: 20 miles
Red Rock Canyon gets its name from the iron oxide in the sandstone that makes the Canyon’s iconic sandstone formations. This iron oxide has rusted over time, producing the bright red color the rocks are famous for.
If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to travel, Red Rock Canyon is the spot for you. It’s so close you can see it from the Strip, and it’s less than 30 minutes away by car. If you’ve arrived in Las Vegas without access to a vehicle, it’s simply a matter of renting a car or signing up for a tour so you can concentrate on taking in the sights.
Learn more about Red Rock Canyon.
VISIT RED ROCK CANYON
2. Lake Mead
Distance from Las Vegas: 25 miles
Not much farther away from Las Vegas than Red Rock Canyon lies the westernmost boundary of Grand Canyon National Park: the lovely Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Created by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead boasts 1.5 million acres of breathtakingly beautiful landscape that includes mountains, canyons, valleys and lakes. With hiking trails, boating, and other outdoor activities, you’re sure to find something to suit every member of your family.
Enjoy the sights and serenity of Lake Mead on a leisurely cruise.
VISIT LAKE MEAD
3. Hoover Dam
Distance from Las Vegas: 35 miles
The Hoover Dam is an American road trip tradition for good reason: this marvel of engineering is an iconic landmark that took five years and over 1,000 workers to build, and it’s only a 50 minute drive from the Strip. During your visit, you can explore the passageways, take in the impressive views and learn the Dam’s full history on one of their informative guided tours.
Learn more about the Hoover Dam.
VISIT THE HOOVER DAM
4. Nelson, Nevada
Nelson, Nevada. Image by MojaveNC via Wikimedia Commons.
Distance from Las Vegas: 45 miles
Nelson, NV is located in Eldorado Canyon, the home of several very productive gold and silver mines that were in operation from the mid-1800s until 1942.
Historically called Eldorado or Eldorado City, the area was known for its rough reputation; in fact, the settlement was eventually renamed “Nelson” in 1897 after Charles Nelson, a camp leader who was murdered in his own home. After the mine closed down, the area was effectively abandoned and is now considered a ghost town. There are so few local residents that they’re actually outnumbered by desert bighorn sheep! A hidden gem of Nevada, Nelson is worth the short trip from Las Vegas, offering guided tours of the mines and a general store full of curiosities.
VISIT ELDORADO CANYON
5. Valley of Fire
Distance from Las Vegas: 55 miles
The Valley of Fire is a 46,000 acre state park located about one hour northeast of the Strip. While it can get warm in the park, it’s not called the Valley of Fire because of the temperature—the name actually comes from the Aztec Sandstone formations, whose characteristic red coloring seems to glow as if on fire when illuminated by the sun.
The park’s desert terrain provides a dazzling backdrop that has been featured in several films, and which also happens to be the perfect site for a picnic. Host to cabins, campgrounds and hiking trails, the Valley of Fire offers a wealth of history and landscape for you to explore.
Learn more about the Valley of Fire.
VISIT THE VALLEY OF FIRE
6. Laughlin, Nevada
Distance from Las Vegas: 90 miles
Looking for a relaxing escape from the Strip? Located on the crystal-clear Colorado River, Laughlin is a popular casino and resort destination. Spend some time at a spa or enjoy a leisurely stroll down the picturesque Laughlin Riverwalk, lined with restaurants, casinos, and outdoor activities.
Bonus: Laughlin is only about 1.5 hours from Las Vegas, making it the perfect destination for a quick jaunt outside the City, allowing you to enjoy part of your day exploring the Southwest but still return in time for an evening show.
VISIT LAUGHLIN, NV
7. Death Valley
Distance from Las Vegas: 120 miles
Don’t let the name scare you off! Death Valley National Park might be the hottest and driest place in North America, but beneath all that heat lies a unique beauty you won’t find anywhere else. With a wide range of elevations, a trip through Death Valley can take you from below sea level to the tops of mountain peaks. Explore the salt flats, sand dunes, canyons and historic sites, and keep an eye out for the incredible species of plants and animals that inhabit this extreme climate.
Learn more about Death Valley.
VISIT DEATH VALLEY
8. The Grand Canyon
Distance from Las Vegas: 125-280 miles
No list of places to see in the Southwest is complete without mentioning the ultimate scenic spot: the Grand Canyon. One of the most awe-inspiring sights you’ll ever encounter, the Grand Canyon is always worth a detour. And with a 3-5 hour drive depending on which Rim you want to visit, it’s a conveniently close, can’t-miss experience for every Las Vegas vacationer.
If the view alone isn’t enough to convince you, you can also enjoy camping, rafting, hiking, impressive architecture and history, and fun activities at the South and West Rims like ranger demonstrations and cowboy entertainment. The more secluded North Rim is further away and offers less in the way of amenities, but is less crowded and ideal for any nature-lover.
Learn more about the Grand Canyon on our blog.
VISIT THE GRAND CANYON
9. Zion National Park
Distance from Las Vegas: 165 miles
Located outside of Nevada but still within driving distance of the Strip, Utah’s Zion National Park is the meeting place of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert. This intersection of different geographical areas makes for an unusual mixture of ecosystems, meaning that, in addition to its spectacular view, Zion is home to an incredibly diverse population of flora and fauna.
With only a three hour drive from Las Vegas, you’ll have plenty of time explore their shorter hiking trails and amenities and still get back before sunset.
Learn more about visiting Zion National Park.
10. Bryce Canyon National Park
Distance from Las Vegas: 265 miles
A visit to the remote and resplendent Bryce Canyon adds an extra hour onto the drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park, but it’s well worth the trip! The landscape here is probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen—Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos (rock pillars) in the world. While you’re there, take in 13 beautiful viewpoints on a spectacular drive around the park, or enjoy a quick hike on one of their short trails.
Leaving Las Vegas
While staying within the lap of Las Vegas luxury for your whole trip can be tempting, it’s also nice to step off the Strip for a day and explore a bit more of what the Southwest has to offer. A short trip down the highway can introduce you to an incredible array of landscapes, gorgeous views, and hidden gems located within this dazzling desert.
Learn more about the Southwest area around Las Vegas.