So you’re heading to Las Vegas? Perhaps you’re going for work or a convention – or maybe you’re taking a vacation filled with entertainment, shopping and fine dining. If you’re staying at a resort hotel, you might be planning time around a pool, or try your luck at the casinos along The Strip. Whether you decide to party along Fremont Street, hop on the High Roller ferris wheel, or scream your head off at The Strat atop the tallest structure in Vegas, there’s no end to the trouble you can get into while in Sin City. Oh, and let’s not forget trying to snag a selfie in front of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
But what would happen if you could break out of the Sin City bubble and venture past Las Vegas Boulevard? If you’ve got a day to spare and a car at your disposal, here are some road trips that’ll give you an entirely fresh perspective – and a shot of nature – after all that neon and noise! You’d be surprised at the plethora of places to see on a day trip from Vegas. The first three I’ll suggest are quite close to the city. But there are others worth a longer drive.
So, here are my ‘Lucky 7’ day-trip suggestions from Las Vegas:
1. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas
BLM Nevada, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
From Las Vegas Boulevard, you can reach Red Rock Canyon in as little as 25 minutes. Once you arrive, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re technically still in Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon is a drastic change in landscape from the Vegas strip, with soaring mountains and sandstone rock formations. From the deep reddish-coppery colors of the Calico Hills to the rainbow-striated Spring Mountains, Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive is simply magical – and a must see. Each stop along the 13-mile one-way loop offers trails through incredibly carved hills, along canyon floors and rims, with views along the way of ancient rock art, waterfalls, desert tortoises, wild burros, and camouflaged bighorn sheep. Red Rock Canyon is nothing short of spectacular. To do it right, I highly recommend you download Shaka Guide’s Red Rock Canyon Tour. And while you’re out there, dine in the tiny desert town of Blue Diamond next door to Red Rock Canyon, at the fabulous Cottonwood Station!
2. Hoover Dam & Boulder City, Nevada
Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
From Las Vegas, you can reach Hoover Dam within 45 minutes. And while everyone talks about that great big engineering marvel, I also highly recommend you visit the small and charming town of Boulder City, the “town that built Hoover Dam.” This town was founded to house all of the construction workers and their families while the dam was being built, and it remains authentic and packed with history.
This includes the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum, which is free, filled with memorabilia and open 365-days a year inside the Boulder Dam Hotel. The walkable historic district is loaded with restaurants and shops. Then drive across the highway to Boulder City’s Hemenway Park for a heavenly view overlooking Lake Mead. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some of the bighorn sheep that come down off the mountainside to graze.
Once you reach Hoover Dam, take a walk across its rim so you can brag to your friends that you had one foot in Nevada and the other in Arizona. To take advantage of everything this road trip has to offer, download the Shaka Guide tour of Hoover Dam-Lake Mead! Which leads me to my next recommendation…
RELATED: Why Was the Hoover Dam Built?
3. Lake Mead National Recreation Area & Valley of Fire, Nevada
BLM Nevada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Less than 45 minutes south of Las Vegas in the Mojave desert (and on your way to Hoover Dam) this is a stunning place to visit, whether in conjunction with Hoover Dam, or as a day trip in and of itself.
Lake Mead was formed when Hoover Dam was built, so it’s really awesome to drive down to the lake itself rather than just looking down at it from the rim of the dam. The entire national recreation area that surrounds the lake is packed with hiking, biking, and watersport activities, including the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail through railroad tunnels that were once used to get supplies and materials to the Hoover Dam site as it was being constructed. Walking through those tunnels is something you’ll never forget, and quite the photo opp!
The Lake Mead Visitor Center is filled with Native American art, crafts and wildlife exhibits, plus park rangers who are quick to offer advice and trail maps. As an added bonus, it’s just another 45 minutes along a scenic drive through Lake Mead to reach Valley of Fire – a state park with mind-blowing red rock formations. This can all be a lot to navigate, so downloading the Shaka Guide’s Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Tour will really help you out in terms of where to go and what to see there. Plus, it’ll lead you along a spectacular and unique scenic drive once you’re on your way back to Vegas, with a desert skyline view that comes upon you like a (ahem) mirage!
RELATED: The Ultimate Lake Mead Travel Guide
4. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
l0da_ralta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The West Rim of the Grand Canyon is only two hours from downtown Las Vegas. It’s the closest rim you can reach on a day trip from Sin City.
Featuring the famous glass Skywalk, you get to step out over the canyon and look down under your feet as if you’re floating on top of it. What a rush! But if you want to drive even further (or have two days to spare so that you can spend the night and have more time) you can reach the more popular North or South Rims of the Grand Canyon, or Page & Horseshoe Bend in a little over four hours from Vegas (one way). Shaka Guide offers downloadable driving tours of the Grand Canyon North Rim, South Rim, and Horseshoe Bend + Page.
5. Death Valley National Park, California
Islander61, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This is the closest National Park to Las Vegas and straddles the border of Nevada. It’s about a two-hour drive from Vegas. But it’s also the hottest place on Earth…so it may not be advisable to head here in summertime. Death Valley is home to the lowest elevation in North America (Badwater Basin) and is the largest national park in the U.S. – as well as the driest. Its sand dunes are stunning, and Zabriskie Point offers some of the most amazing views of the hilly badlands – especially at sunrise and sunset.
6. Zion National Park, Utah
Thomas Carlier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
At 2-and-a-half hours from Vegas, this is also a popular place to visit. With massive red sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, mountains, mesas and forest trails along the Virgin River, it is stunningly picturesque. Of course, Shaka Guide offers a downloadable, self-driving tour of Zion, providing you with all of the most important information and advice for tackling this park.
7. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
I, Jonathan Zander, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
At four hours each way, this would make for a very long day trip, but you could make it all the way to Bryce Canyon and back without staying overnight, and still have some time to see parts of the park. Here you’ll find the largest concentration of hoodoos (rock columns) found anywhere on Earth. The park’s high elevations lead to geological wonders that are nearly impossible to describe. And while you’re there, check out Shaka Guide’s Bryce Canyon National Park Tour too!
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Here’s to happy trails…and memorable road trips. Las Vegas is all the more meaningful once you’ve seen some of the incredible beauty that surrounds it!