A visit to Las Vegas almost always includes neon lights, glitzy hotels, live entertainment, and an enticing dance with Lady Luck at the casinos. It’s a place people go to let loose, and live large. It’s not known as Sin City for nothing..
Outside the kaleidoscope of lights and sounds along The Strip, there’s places to see and things to explore around the city on various day trips from Las Vegas. The surrounding desert-scape may look barren, but there’s a wealth of hidden gems.
An organized tour is also a great way to explore if you don’t fancy planning it all yourself. Not only do you have the benefit of a knowledgeable guide, but you’re free to sit back and enjoy the experience without having to fuss with maps, driving and figuring out logistics.
Choose from small group tours, or the even more intimate private excursions – whatever suits your style and budget Vegas has it!
Keep reading to find out where you MUST on a Las Vegas day trip.
Getting Around Las Vegas and Beyond
Visiting Vegas means throwing caution to the wind, warning your bank of large expenses and getting down and dirty with the sinners. Heading out of the city and into the surroundings may be unusual for those are are used to the dark, smoky casinos, but there’s more to Vegas than just testing your limits.
There are many ways to explore and navigate Sin City. Using public transport is arguably easier than having a car as the traffic can be a nightmare! However, when it comes to taking a day trip from Las Vegas, it gets a bit tricky.
Within the city limits, there is a wide variety of public transport available. But, if you’re heading out to the desert areas, you’ll need to hire a car or rent an RV – unless you sign up for a scheduled tour.
- Las Vegas is a very walkable city
- Public transport includes trams, a monorail, and regular buses
- For the full Sin City experience, it’s common to hire a limo or party like a Rockstar on a party bus
Renting a car is perfect for exploring further out – but stay alert. Drivers in Vegas can be reckless, and sometimes under the influence.
When hiring a car make sure the air-conditioning works! When you’re heading into the desert, you’ll be glad for it. Also consider requesting something more robust than a sedan if you’re heading into remote territory – no one wants to get stuck in the sand in the middle of asshole Las Vegas.
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Half-day Trips From Las Vegas
When you’re tired of tequila and choosing between black and red, set out to explore some of the fascinating spots located around Las Vegas. You can reach desert-scapes, dams, and day glow totems in just a moment’s drive!
Red Rock Canyon
Just 20 minutes outside central Las Vegas, you’ll find Red Rock Canyon. The rocky and rugged landscape are washed in shades of copper and gold. At dusk and dawn, the angled rays from the sun turn the setting vivid shades of orange and red.
When you need a break from the neon lights and bustling casinos, a quick drive will have in incredibly fresh air and outstanding scenery in no time.
For such an arid landscape and seemingly unforgiving territory, Red Rock has plenty to see and experience. There are over 26 hiking trails ranging in difficulty from a pleasant stroll to challenging climbs, all offering gorgeous scenery to enjoy.
Visit the petroglyphs near the Willow Springs Picnic Area and marvel at the rock drawings dating back some 800 years!
You’ll be surprised by how much life there is in the desert, from plants to insects and birds. Between March and May, the otherwise arid region bursts into color with the blooming of the desert wildflowers.
Suggested trips: Red Rock Canyon Sunset Tour
Seven Magic Mountains
Against the stark desert background, sunbaked and dry, seven stacked towers of brightly colored boulders are a sight to behold. Seven Magic Mountains is an art installation created in 2016 by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.
Constructed using boulders from a nearby quarry, painted in various day glow colors and stacked to resemble totem poles, the towers are visible from Las Vegas Boulevard. But nothing prepares you for seeing them up close.
Ranging between 30 and 35 feet, they are impressive to stand next to and make for some pretty fun and wacky photo opportunities.
Before heading out, make sure you bring along adequate sun protection and enough water. There’s not a lot around here, not even restrooms (the nearest ones are five miles away in Jean).
If you’re not short on time, this quick trip from Las Vegas combines well with a visit to Hoover Dam to kill 2 birds with 1 – day glow – stone.
Suggested trip: Hoover Dam Tour with Seven Magic Mountains
A marvel of engineering, Hoover Dam attracts SO MANY visitors each year. The dam wall stands at a staggering 726 feet, harnessing the Colorado River, and holds around 29 million acre-feet of water.
If you’re staying in Vegas, a trip out to Hoover Dam takes just 45-minutes by car. It’s a quick and rewarding day trip from Las Vegas. If you’ve got some extra time to spare, combine a trip here with a visit to Boulder City or Lake Mead.
It’s free for visitors to walk along the top of the Dam to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery and informative plaques along the walkway. There are 30-minute and one-hour guided tours for those who want to learn more about the power generation and overall impact the Hoover Dam has had.
Suggested trip: Hoover Dam Tour from Las Vegas
Full-day Trips From Las Vegas
You would expect an arid landscape like the one surrounding Las Vegas to be totally desolate. What can survive in that intense heat and dry setting?! You’ll be surprised at how many attractions there are to visit within a two-and-a-half-hour drive of Sin City.
When it comes to natural phenomena, few are more spectacular than the Grand Canyon. This massive 277-mile canyon has been carved into the rock by the Colorado River over millions of years, creating an impressive chasm. Not only is it one of the best things to do in Las Vegas, it’s simply phenomenal.
The West Rim of the Canyon is closest to Vegas, and ideal for a day outing. You’ll need to cross state lines into Arizona, but it’s a great place to see the Canyon at its absolute best.
One of the best parts of visiting the West Rim is the Skywalk – a glass-bottomed walkway (not for the faint of heart). There’s even a heart-stopping zipline, and some great places to grab a bite.
If you’re keen to explore, head off on a hike starting at the visitor center or visit the nearby cultural center to learn more about the Hualapai Native American people who once lived here.
Suggested trip: Grand Canyon West From Las Vegas
Valley of Fire
Geological wonders await the curious travelers to the Valley of Fire. This iconic natural wonder is about an hour from Sin City by car, and is an excellent option for a day trip from Las Vegas.
The Valley of Fire gets its name from the red Aztec sandstone which was formed from shifting sand dunes over 150 million years ago. There’s no shortage of cool things to check out, with ancient petroglyphs, staggering rock formations, and even dinosaur bones.
You can explore the park for a small entrance fee. Visit magnificent sites including the Atlatl Rock, the smoothly worn Fire Cave, the uniquely shaped Elephant Rock, and the aptly named Pastel Canyon with its shades of delicate pink.
When planning your day trip, keep in mind is to pack adequate water supplies and ensure you’ve got good sunblock and a hat. Things can get extremely hot in the desert. Plan a rest stop somewhere shady during the hottest part of the day.
Suggested trip: Valley of Fire Tour from Las Vegas
In an area as dry and rugged as the Nevada Desert, Lake Mead is a welcome sight – a glittering blue oasis. It’s one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, formed by Hoover Dam.
With more than 750 miles of shoreline on Lake Mead, there are loads of places to relax along the water’s edge. Las Vegas Bay and Boulder Beach are the closest areas of the lake to the city – perfect for a day of lounging.
On your day trip to Lake Mead you can swim, fish, kayak, and scuba dive on the lake, hike scenic trails, or go horseback riding. This picturesque spot promises a really relaxing day on the water as an escape from the busy streets of Las Vegas.
Suggested trip: Lake Mead National Park ATV Tour
Ready to hit the slopes for some skiing, snowboarding and sledding? In the desert? You bet! A quick 45 minutes from Vegas, you’ll find the snow-capped Mount Charleston – at least it’s snow-capped during the winter months..
One thing to bear in mind, good snow on the weekend can lead to congestion on the roads. We’d recommend planning your ski trips or sledding adventures during the week to avoid the crowds.
The Lee Canyon Ski and Snowboard Resort is the ideal place for some adventurous snow activities like tubing and snowboarding, or you could stay in nearby Pahrump at this private cottage.
The slopes make for great hiking and incredible scenery in the warmer months. You can even enjoy a leisurely horseback ride along the trails. There’s plenty of fauna and flora to see as you go – not what you’d expect in the heart of the desert.
If you’re visiting Vegas and need a break from the sweltering desert heat, a trip to the higher elevations of Mount Charleston can provide the respite you need.
If thoughts of alien life forms and UFOs excite you, you’ll want to take a quick day trip from Las Vegas to the famed Area 51. You can’t actually access the top-secret military facility, but there’s still plenty to do nearby.
While the government claims it’s simply an Air Force testing site, many believe the military base houses top-secret alien technology – if not even aliens themselves!
Whatever it is, there’s a thriving tourist industry as a result. Sure, you can’t go inside, but you can stop at Little A’le’Inn – a nearby UFO-themed restaurant and hotel – for lunch.
There’s a distinct vibe in the air around the base. In addition to the haunting and barren landscape, there’s a sense that you’re being watched. It’s eerie, to say the least! But still one of the best places to visit in Vegas.
Be warned, it is still an active military facility, and any trespassing can lead to severe consequences.
Suggested trip: Area 51 Tour from Las Vegas
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley – sounds delightful, doesn’t it? As one of the driest and hottest places on earth, Death Valley is stark and unwelcoming. But this desolate landscape is hauntingly beautiful and, surprisingly, home to various hardy species of wildlife and scrubby vegetation.
You can visit the abandoned Gold Rush town named Rhyolite, and explore Furnace Creek and Zabriskie Point. If you’re into photography, it will not disappoint. Death Valley needs to be on every Las Vegas itinerary.
The incredible location is only two and a half hours from Las Vegas, so it’s ideal for a day trip. If you’ve got the time, we’d highly recommend staying the night at one of the campgrounds or hotels. The skies here are famously dark, making stargazing absolutely amazing.
In the summer months, be prepared for some incredible heat – make sure you bring enough water! Aim to spend the hottest part of the day somewhere with air-conditioning. In the springtime, you’re in for a treat. Despite the dry conditions, the landscape erupts in a spectacular display of wildflowers.
Suggested trip: Death Valley Group Tour with Lunch
Mount Tipton Wilderness Area
A hidden gem among the many other popular wilderness areas, Mount Tipton Wilderness Area, is a 30,000-acre reserve ideal for adventurous travelers.
Mount Tipton itself looms impressively over the landscape at over 7000 feet, offering excellent opportunities for rock climbing. With few other tourists around, you’ll enjoy an authentic off-the-beaten-track experience.
In addition to hiking the many trails, another great way to explore this rugged area is on horseback. The further up the mountain you go, the lusher the vegetation.
The hike to the top of the mountain should not be underestimated – it’s tough! But, well worth it when you reach the summit and are rewarded with epic views for miles in every direction. Get the full desert experience with a stay in a cozy camper van.
Zion National Park
Zion means ‘heavenly city’, an apt name for this beautiful national park. Contrasting with the very barren landscapes around Las Vegas, Zion National Park features lush valleys and a verdant canyon.
The oasis is located over the state line in Utah, but it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Las Vegas. Immediately upon entering the park, you’re greeted with the majestic scenery of the reddish rock formations emerging from deep forests.
The park has a variety of hiking trails to explore suited to a wide range of fitness levels. Make sure you include a visit to the Emerald Pools – a three-level cascading waterfall set within a dense forest.
Suggested trip: Zion National Park Tour
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Don’t Forget Your Las Vegas Travel Insurance
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
The city of Las Vegas is perceived as a high-energy party city, isolated in the middle of a desert. While there are some desolate and arid landscapes around, there’s so much to see and do outside of the city.
From dramatic canyons and rugged rock formations, to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a Las Vegas day trip. If you only have time for one, and it’s a tough choice, we’d recommend visiting the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s truly a must-see and will live long in your memory.
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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