Las Vegas is a city full of activities, events, shows, and concerts, but on top of that, it’s also a great home base for exploring the rest of the Southwest. Vegas is within driving distance of more than a few national and state parks, cities, and man-made wonders. Whether you’re prepared to travel a few hours to reach your destination or find anything over an hour to be a bit much, there’s an option for everyone.
Here are 11 day trips you can make from Las Vegas, starting with the shortest drive.
1. Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, Henderson, NV
Distance from the Strip: ~23 min; 14-19 miles (depending on route) / 36-49 km
The Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area (NCA) in nearby Henderson, NV, is an often overlooked gem. Located in the opposite direction of Red Rock Canyon (NCA), but just as picturesque, Sloan Canyon boasts an even more impressive collection of petroglyphs and pictographs—over 1,700!—and is considered to be “one of the most significant cultural resources in Southern Nevada” (Bureau of Land Management).
An important note from the Bureau of Land Management website:
Sloan Canyon is one of the premier rock art sites in Southern Nevada. To keep the petroglyphs pristine, visitors are asked to not touch the rock art because contact with the oils in skin will damage them. You may take photographs and sketches, but rubbings are not permitted. Avoid climbing near rock art sites.
2. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Distance from The Strip: ~30 min; 23.3 miles / 37.5 km
Not to be confused with Red Rock Canyon State Park in California, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (NCA) in Nevada is located right outside Las Vegas. It’s a beautiful place full of stunning red rock formations, is ideal for spending the day hiking or taking in the sights from a vehicle as you drive around the Scenic Loop, and doesn’t require a long drive to get there.
Learn more about Red Rock Canyon:
Explore Red Rock Canyon
3. The Hoover Dam & Lake Mead
Distance from the Strip: ~38-45 min; 32 miles / 51 km
Replete with hiking trails of a variety of difficulty levels, beautiful scenery, and one of the most impressive man-made structures on the planet, the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead area are definitely worth an excursion out of Las Vegas. Spend some relaxing downtime floating on the lake, enjoying some water sports or water-based activities, kick back on the shore, or take a tour of the Hoover Dam to see and learn more about the inner workings of this feat of construction and human innovation.
Learn more about the Hoover Dam:
Explore the Hoover Dam
4. Mount Charleston & Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Distance from Las Vegas Strip: ~46 minutes; 42 miles / 63 km
Mount Charleston is renowned for being a cool (and cool ) place to get away from the heat of Las Vegas and the surrounding area in both the summer and winter months. The lower temperatures make it an ideal location to visit and spend a day during the sweltering summers, and its snow-capped slopes during the winter season make it a great place to stop for sledding, skiing, and other winter sports.
5. Eldorado Canyon & Gold Mine
Distance from the Strip: ~48 minutes; 46 miles / 74 km
This photogenic, historical location combines the charm of a Wild West setting with the eerie feeling of an abandoned ghost town—because it is! Abandoned in the early 1940s after the mine closed its operations, there are actually more desert bighorn sheep than residents. In addition to its abundance of good angles and photo ops, the Eldorado Canyon and Gold Mine boasts a fun day of exploring the area on an ATV.
Explore Eldorado Canyon
6. Mojave National Preserve
Distance from the Strip: ~50 minutes; 53.3 miles / 85.8 km
Located in nearby Barstow, California, the Mojave National Preserve is a meeting point for three of the major deserts located in the U.S.: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran. The Mojave National Preserve is made up of impressive Joshua Tree forests, ghost towns, volcanic formations, sand dunes, and is home to the Mojave Lava Tube.
In addition to its unique landscape, this national preserve offers:
- Backpacking & backcountry travel
- Horseback riding (B.Y.O.H. only, no horse rentals available at this time)
- Wildflower viewing in some years when the weather conditions are right
- Ranger programs
Tour Tip: Mojave National Preserve actually has a larger concentration of Joshua Trees than Joshua Tree National Park, located 2.5 hours further away from the Strip.
7. Pahrump, NV
Distance from the Strip: ~1 hr; 58.1 miles / 93.5 km
Located between the city of Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park, Pahrump is a small town you’ve likely overlooked, but one with more to offer than you might think. Here you’ll find:
- Pahrump Valley Museum
- Pahrump Valley Speedway
- Golf courses
- Lake Spring Mountain
- Lakeside Casino and RV Resort
- A variety of seasonal festivals (including the Hot Air Balloon Festival in February and Silver State Chili Cookoff in March)
8. Valley of Fire State Park
Distance from the Strip: ~1 hr 30 min; 56 miles / 91 km
Named for its Aztec Sandstone, the Valley of Fire is a must-see geological formation made up of stones characterized by an unearthly red beauty that is reminiscent of flames in certain light. Its otherworldly appearance has made it the backdrop of many films and tv shows—including Total Recall (1990) and Star Trek Generations (1994)—and is worth seeing at least once for its unique landscape and impressive collection of thousands-of-years-old Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. Like with Sloan Canyon, touching the petroglyphs is not permitted
Tour Tip: While it wasn’t named for its scorching temps (unlike Death Valley) this scenic valley can still become sweltering in the desert heat. Remember to bring comfortable, breathable clothing to keep yourself covered up, sufficient water to stay hydrated, and sunscreen—and don’t forget to reapply!
Learn more about the Valley of Fire:
Explore the Valley of Fire
9. Mount Tipton Wilderness
Distance from the Strip: ~1 hr 30 min; 88.5 miles / 142 km
If you’re looking for a true wilderness experience, look no further than the rugged terrain of Mount Tipton Wilderness. This wilderness may be located a short 90 minute drive from Las Vegas, but it’s somewhat difficult to gain entry to, so come prepared—the Bureau of Land Management states that “[a] four-wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended to gain access to this wilderness”.
Home to wild mustangs, Ponderosa pines and pinyon-juniper woodland, and the impressive Cerbat Pinnacles, this spot is a can’t-miss for avid (and well-prepared) hikers. A climb to the peak of Mount Tipton is not recommended for casual or new hikers due to its formidable terrain, including:
- Very hot summers and cold winters
- Sandy washes that can be found throughout the most commonly travelled trails
- Scarce water sources that need to be purified
Tour Tip: You can camp on the grounds if you decide to stay the night after spending the day in the Mount Tipton Wilderness but you should consider checking out the Joshua Tree Ostrich Ranch & Guest House in Dolan Springs for an unforgettable experience.
10. Laughlin, NV
Distance from the Strip: ~1 h 34 min; 98.5 miles / 158 km
Laughlin is a town with a reputation for being a more relaxed “mini-Las-Vegas”, but it has more to offer than casinos and resorts. Located right on the Colorado River, Laughlin also has a wonderful selection of restaurants, entertainment, and outdoor activities:
- Take a stroll along the Laughlin Riverwalk
- Peruse the petroglyphs at Grapevine Canyon
- Enjoy Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Museum or the Colorado River Museum
- Take a scenic drive along Christmas Tree Pass
- Explore the Laughlin Labyrinths
- Hit the links at one of the many golf clubs
- Enjoy some time on the Colorado River with plenty of water sports, activities, and tours to participate in
Explore Laughlin, NV
11. Death Valley National Park
Distance from the Strip: ~2 h 19 min; 126 miles / 202 km
One of the hottest and driest locations on the planet, Death Valley might sound like a formidable location best to be avoided, but don’t sleep on this incredible destination. Between Badwater Basin, the Devil’s Golf Course, Furnace Creek and Zabriskie Point, Death Valley has one of the most impressive and unique landscapes in North America, as well as all kinds of plant and animal life you wouldn’t expect—stop by in the spring for a chance to see the beautiful wildflowers that blanket the area when water conditions are right.
Don’t forget to check out:
Tour Tip: As you may have guessed from its site names (we’re looking at you, Furnace Creek), the temperature at Death Valley can reach impressive heights, especially in the summer. So high, in fact, that summer hiking is advised against by the National Park Service.
Stay safe by keeping yourself hydrated, staying in the shade, remaining in your vehicle or not venturing out for longer than 15 minutes on hot days, wearing sunscreen, dressing appropriately, and avoiding bare-skin contact with the ground—the sand gets so hot (upwards 200°F / 95°C) that it can cause third degree burns.
Learn more about Death Valley:
Explore Death Valley
If you have a spare day during your Vegas vacation, don’t be afraid to take a short drive away from the city and enjoy some of the desert beauty of the American Southwest. Consider visiting one of these nearby locations:
- Sloan Canyon
- Red Rock Canyon
- Hoover Dam & Lake Mead
- Mount Charleston
- Eldorado Canyon & Gold Mine
- Mojave National Preserve
- Pahrump, NV
- Valley of Fire
- Mount Tipton Wilderness
- Laughlin, NV
- Death Valley
Discover more sights to see and places to visit around Las Vegas: