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13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

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Are you spending a few days in Vegas and looking to take a break from the hotels and casinos? Here are 13 ideas for fantastic day trips that will get you away from Sin City to some fascinating attractions and amazing views.

There is no need to book anything or pay anyone; just get into your car and hit the road! You can leave early in the morning and be back in time to catch yet another Vegas evening show!

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Originally posted in 2016, it's time for an update, so this is the new version. This is a fairly long post, and the update contains a table of contents. There are some more updates along the post to make sure it's a good fit for 2020.

Why take a day trip outside of Las Vegas?

Las Vegas is definitely like no other city in the US, possibly the world. This mirage of a city in the middle of the desert offers visitors a constant stream of shows, shops, restaurants, clubs, and every possible chance to gamble. It can get overwhelming.

Few people remain indifferent to Vegas. You either love it or hate it. I'm afraid we belong to the second kind. Our first visit was back in 2009, and within two days, we cut our pre-booked stay short and left town.

We've passed through the city twice again, in 2011 and again in 2015. Both times, we basically drove through and moved on to our next destination.

That said, I know quite a few people who fell in love with Nevada's City of Lights. They keep returning to Vegas for long vacations, enjoying everything it has to offer.

Even if you're a fan, there comes a point when you may want to get out of town for a day to take a break from all the glitz and lights and get a whiff of nature. If that's the case, this post can help you.

Alternatively, it may help someone in your party who realized they hated Vegas but are forced to stay there with you. Please give them the car keys and send them on one of these day trips. They'll appreciate it (and won't bother you just when you're about to hit the jackpot at the casino!)

Day Trips around Las Vegas

This list is arranged by distance from the city. There's a map at the end where you can see where everything is located and possibly combine several of these spots into one fun day out of the city. So, let's see what there is to do around Las Vegas.

1. Tour Hoover Dam (40 minutes)

Hoover Dam itself is probably the one place you absolutely must see when visiting Las Vegas. We stayed in 2009 and took the full dam tour. It was then stopped for a few years and renewed not so long ago.

You can take a focused tour of the powerplant itself or a more detailed tour that takes you into other parts of this huge edifice. See all tour plans and rates here.

Even if you don't have time for a guided tour, do yourself a favor and see old Hoover and the amazing Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge right across from the dam.

Majestic aerial shot of Hoover Dam, Hoover Dam - 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

2. Go boating on Lake Mead (40 minutes)

Lake Mead is a huge water reservoir east of Las Vegas. In the 1930s, Hoover Dam, on the border between Arizona and Nevada, was used to block the Colorado River, leading to its creation.

You can drive to Hemenway Harbor near Boulder City, rent a boat, and go on the lake for the day. Add water skis or kneeboards, and have fun! We did something similar on Lake Powell when visiting Page, AZ, and it was a blast!

Aerial shot of Lake Mead, Lake Mead: 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

3. Take Instagram Photos at the Seven Magic Mountains Art Installation (40 minutes)

Seven Magic Mountains art installation near Las Vegas city. Pillars made of neon colored boulders stand against barren desert background and blue sky.

This relatively new attraction near Las Vegas deserves a spot on our list because of the stunning photo op.

In the middle of the Nevada desert, you'll find seven pillars of colorful rocks created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. There's not much to do there other than admire the work and take tons of pictures.

Seven Magic Mountains art installation near Las Vegas city. Pillars made of neon colored boulders stand against barren desert background and blue sky.

This attraction is free to visit. If you're an art fan, it could be worth a trip in its own right. Otherwise, it's probably more of a stop along the way to another destination south of Vegas. More info is on their website here.

4. Take in the views at Red Rock Canyon (50 minutes)

Drive west of Vegas for less than an hour, and you'll reach Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It's a great hiking area if the weather is good, but even if it's too hot to get outdoorsy, you can still drive the scenic route and get to the Visitors Center and the outlook.

Just check their website first for road conditions and opening hours.

Red Rock Canyon: 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

5. Hike the Charleston Peak area (50 minutes)

Does the name "Las Vegas" make you think of snowcapped mountains? No? I didn't think so. But actually, under an hour's drive to the west will bring you to one of the highest peaks in Nevada, Mount Charleston, and it certainly snows up there during wintertime.

It's a great area for hiking, with marked trails and elevation gains that will fill your heart with joy. If yours is that kind of heart, that is (total disclosure: mine is not).

Charleston Peak: 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

6. Follow the gold into Nelson Ghost Town & Techatticup Mine (50 minutes)

Have you ever dreamed of riding into the Eldorado mountains at sunset? You'll have to time it properly for the sunset thing, and your ride may be a car, but you can still do that not too far away from Las Vegas.

Nelson is an authentic, tiny Western town born out of the pursuit of gold in the Eldorado mountains.

It's not technically a ghost town per se, as there are still people living there (37 of them by the last census), but if you're looking for old buildings and machines, you won't be disappointed. This site will guide you to the town.

Techatticup Mine near Nelson is a well-preserved old gold mine where you can enjoy a guided tour. Make sure you check their website and make your reservations in advance.

7. Hit the trails at the Valley of Fire State Park (1 hour)

If I were to arrange this list by "best bang for your driving time," the Valley of Fire State Park would probably be a contender for first place. It has beautiful trails through dramatic red rock formations that make the perfect backdrop for a great hike.

You may be able to spot bighorn sheep, too! Just please mind the weather. This place is very hot during summertime and potentially quite cold during winter.

Valley of Fire State Park: 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

If you hit the right temperature, it's probably the best place near Vegas for getting away from the neons and into nature. The park's website has full details and a trail map. 

8. Discover the Beauty of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (1 hour 30 minutes)

Explore the unique ecosystems at Ash Meadows. This wildlife refuge is home to rare plants and animals, offering walking trails and stunning landscapes. It's a peaceful spot to connect with nature and enjoy a serene day trip.

Boardwalk Trail to Longstreet Cabin and Spring in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nye County, Nevada, USA

9. Travel back in time to Shoshone Village, CA (1 hour and 40 minutes)

If you're looking for off-the-beaten-track-slash-roadside-attraction kind of places, Shoshone Village may be a good destination for you.

The tiny hamlet has its little ghost town with a twist: Dublin Gulch is a collection of "cave homes" dug into the rock by gold miners of past eras. Shoshone Village also has a museum dedicated to the town's history.

Mind, the word "museum" is used fairly liberally here. It's just a couple of rooms with interesting historical artifacts. More information about Shoshone Village is available on their website.

10. Experience Mormon heritage at St. George, Utah (1 hour and 50 minutes)

Driving east out of Vegas, past Mesquite, and through the gorgeous canyon of the Virgin River, you'll end up at the city of St. George, Utah.

There's quite a lot to see and do in this Mormon city of 80K inhabitants. If you've never been to Salt Lake City's Mormon temples, you definitely should see the one in St. George. It has a large visitor center with long opening hours (more information here).

We really enjoyed our afternoon visit to St. George in the summer of 2015. There's a sense of preserved heritage there that runs deeper than that of SLC. Strolling along in the historic part of the city, you can also see the pioneers' homes, including Brigham Young's winter residence.

Visiting St. George can provide an urban experience that's mind-bogglingly different from Vegas. If you have some more time or wish to expand this into a two-day tour, visit the state parks just north of town to enjoy some gorgeous Utah views.

St George, Utah - 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

11. Taste some Americana at Route 66, AZ (2 hours)

A couple of hours' drive from Las Vegas will get you to historic Route 66 in Arizona, specifically around Oatman. This place is pure magic. It is not just Oatman itself - a mix of ghost towns and Old West attractions - but also the entire section of the road.

Sitgreaves Pass, Arizona - 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

If you're up for an awesome drive, go from Oatman all the way to Seligman. The road takes you through Sitgreaves Pass for some great Arizona scenery. Stop to see the old mine shafts on the side of the road.

When we were there on a Sunday morning in 2011, we had the place to ourselves—well, except for the rattlesnake. 

Make sure you take the turn to old Route 66 just past Kingman, all the way to picturesque Seligman. This is the town that inspired the movie Cars, and you'll see why when you get there.

Remember to get an ice cream at Delgadillo's Snow Cap—quite the experience! You can then return via I-40 and US-93 for a shorter route back to Vegas.

Seligman, AZ - 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

12. Feel the heat at Death Valley National Park (2 hours and 20 minutes)

Another full-day drive destination would be Death Valley National Park. Overall, this is not a good choice for summertime.

It is just too hot there, and you'll have a hard time going anywhere other than inside the Visitors Center. During October-April, conditions are more tolerable, and if you have an entire free day in Las Vegas, you can definitely make it to Death Valley, take in some of the sights, and be back by evening.

Death Valley - 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas
The view from Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Check their website and plan ahead. You're visiting America's hottest, driest, and lowest National Park and need to know where you're going and prepare accordingly.

We've written more about this specific day trip option, so make sure to check out these posts -

Death Valley From Las Vegas: Day Trip Itinerary 

10 Best Things To Do In Death Valley (And Other Travel Tips!)

13. Visit Zion National Park (2 hours and 40 minutes)

Up for a longer drive? Just under three hours of driving time will get you to one of the most beautiful places in the US: Zion National Park.

Arguably, one day is not enough to fully explore the trails of this amazing canyon, hike the Narrows, and climb up Angel's Landing. However, if that's all you have, you can head out early in the morning, get there by 10 AM, and catch the shuttle into the park.

You'd have time to see the entire canyon and hike a couple of trails before heading back to Las Vegas. That's a whole lot more than not seeing Zion at all.

Most visitors don't hike the more challenging trails of the Narrows or Angel's Landing anyway, so a day visit to this park may be a great option.

Zion National Park: 13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

What about the Grand Canyon?

People often ask me about visiting the Grand Canyon while staying in Las Vegas. While several tour operators will take you there and back in a day, personally, I think that's not a good option for a self-drive day trip.

It will take you 5-6 hours each way. Doable? Sure. Worth it? I think not. You'll hardly have time to appreciate the views, and your visit will feel rushed.

If you absolutely have to check the Grand Canyon off your personal Bucket List, and this is your only chance, go ahead.

I suggest staying the night at Grand Canyon Village to have some more time there and see the sunset and sunrise. Otherwise, you may want to consider an airplane or helicopter tour. It's not cheap, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it'll save you time on the road.

Go out there and explore!

I've included all of the places mentioned in this post on the following map. Each marker number corresponds to the location listed in this article.

Las Vegas is close to many beautiful places in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Even if you love Vegas, make the most of your stay by taking a day—or even half a day—to experience something different.

If you know anyone who's visiting Las Vegas, share this post with them (use the Facebook and Twitter icons for that!). And as always, let me know what you think by leaving me a comment!

Road-tripping is fun! We do it whenever we're in the US. You may want to take a look at my 37 road-tripping tips, too.

They are based on over a year and a half of touring the US by car, including driving from California to Alaska and back! Also, while in the Southwest, check out my Arizona Bucket List for other nearby destinations or drive from Las Vegas for more than a day.

13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

13 Fantastic Self-Drive Day Trips Around Las Vegas

 
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20 Comments

  1. I took my kids to Vegas in July 2020 and we drove a couple hours to Grand Canyon West. I’ve also been to the South Rim. To me…the beauty is all around, no matter which part you go to. You can make it a day trip to the West Rim…and the kids enjoyed it. Also you get to drive through Joshua Tree State Park on the way to the West rim.

  2. we will be soon visiting Las Vegas and we will love to visit the Grand Canyon park, we will drive there from Las Vegas so since is one (maybe 2) day trip …which side will you recommend as a “Must see” ..we have decided maybe to stop in the way back and spend the night somewhere in between …any suggestions…?? Thanks for the article!!

    • Hi Tita,
      We always prefer national parks, and in this case, this means you need to get to the South Rim. Look up “Grand Canyon Village” on Google Maps and you’ll see the right location. You have a visitor center there, plenty of viewing points, ranger activities and lodges. What you could do is aim to spend the night there, and that way you get both sunset and sunrise in the Grand Canyon. If you only have a couple of days for the visit, I would include the Route 66 historic section between Seligman and Oatman (leave some time to explore both locations as well, so 2-3 hours in total). Williams is another great stop on the way, for some local atmosphere.
      Another option is to head out of Vegas early in the morning, drive through Oatman/Seligman/Rt 66 and reach the Grand Canyon by the early afternoon. Spend 2-3 hours there and then drive on to Page, AZ. The following day, you can go visit Antelope Canyon and then head back to Las Vegas via Kanab and St. George. If you have a couple of days more to spare, I would work Zion National Park into that itinerary too.

    • Enjoy the drive, Tiana! Zion is actually an entire National Park, unique for its canyon – but there are mountains around the canyon!

  3. Take the 4 hour and 45 minute trip to Grand Canyon it’s worth the extra time.
    Red rock canyon is a nice drivable route with option to get out of the car, or not.
    Hoover dam is nice and not to hard to access for people that have accessibly issues.
    This is a great list and allows you to see many things besides the lights, and life of Las Vegas.

  4. We will be in Vegas in October. Not physical, outdoor type people and only have 1 day to explore outside the city. Which of these suggestions would be the best “bang” to explore with limited time and energy?

    • Hi Tiffany,
      Assuming you have a car, I would say anything that doesn’t involve hiking. Depending on how much driving you want to do, you can drive down to Oatman and Seligman for a taste of Route 66 and maybe visit Nelson Ghost town en route too. For a shorter time, how about Hoover Dam and Lake Mead?

  5. We are doing road trips from Vegas and noted the hiking tips however we are 78 and 80 and hiking is not an viable option. Any tips on limited mobility trips.

    • Hi Lyn,
      I think that if you skip #5, everything else would be good for non-hikers. If you have the time for it, I would try and make it to Zion National Park where you can take the shuttle in and out without hitting the trails. You can get off at some stations to appreciate the views and visit the museum and visitors center too. I hope this helps!

  6. Is Grand Canyon really 6 hours drive from LV? Google maps shows the GX Skywalk to be a little over 2 hours. Please clarify.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Aamir,

      Great question. I was referring to the Grand Canyon National Park. If you enter Grand Canyon Village in Google Maps, you’ll see the correct route. IMO, it’s best to take the Route 66 detour on the way via Peach Springs and Seligman. That would put your driving time by Google at 4 hours and 45 minutes. However, that’s not a realistic figure. I always add at least 10% to Google’s time estimates and when it’s over 4-5 hours, you need to factor in even more time just for bathroom stops and a meal. All in all, the real driving time from Vegas to the Grand Canyon National Park is at least 5 hours but usually closer to six.
      The Skywalk is – in my personal opinion – a tourist trap. It’s very expensive and it’s not the national park itself. Having said that, some people enjoy their visit there, so don’t let my opinion stop you if all you have is half a day out of Vegas.

    • That is Grand Canyon West which is owned by Native Americans. It is very scenic but also dangerous as there are no guardrails whatsoever. It does have the Skywalk but it is not cheap. We drove there from Vegas and it was well worth the trip.

  7. Awesome post, this is very helpful for people looking into road tripping or just driving around and having a good time with family or friends! The scenery and experience would be definitely one for the books with all the great choices you were able to put in. Thank you for this and I saw some great additional suggestions in the comment section as well, so that’s great to take into mind.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mark! Always nice to get such feedback, especially when coming from a local!

  8. Could you please send me this information about small trips I can take for free. I lived in Las Vegas for 18 years now I like to see other places. Thank You Paul

    • Hi Paul,
      I think it’s a great idea to explore around the city! If you’re driving a car, then all the information you need is in this post. Otherwise, I would head to the local tourists information center and ask about free activities and tours in the area. Here is the address and phone number for them –
      Las Vegas Visitor Information Center
      3150 Paradise Road
      Las Vegas, NV 89109-9096
      877-VISITLV (877-847-4858)
      Open Mon through Fri 8am to 5:30pm, Closed Sat & Sun

  9. Writer forgot to mention Lake Mead National Recreation Area scenic drive just east of Las Vegas. Access from Valley of Fire State Park and drive to East Lake Mead Boulevard. Very scenic and several places where year around spring water can be seen flowing out of the mountains with live native fish in small ponds.

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