Las Vegas has a lot of things to do. A. Lot.
If you’re like us, though, the casinos aren’t what gets us going; it’s the other cool things to do. Like hanging Downtown. Checking out First Friday. And yes, even getting out of town. It’s hard to narrow down what to do outside of Vegas, but we’ve hand-picked these five best day trips from Las Vegas.
While many people plan trips to Vegas and stick to The Strip, there’s so much more than the mega resorts to create a memorable Las Vegas vacation.
For you locals, get out of town today!
The Five Best Day Trips from Las Vegas
The highest peak in Southern Nevada, Mt. Charleston is where the locals go to get into some glorious and non-desert nature. About 35 miles northwest of town (also known as about an hour drive from The Strip), this area is packed with more than 50 miles of magnificent hiking trails, cozy hotels, and even Lee Canyon Ski Resort.
Yes. There is skiing in Las Vegas. And, it’s real snow.
In the winter, pop on some skis and hit the slopes here or head up for an old-fashioned snowball fight. If you want to extend your day trip into an overnighter, there is the Mt. Charleston Hotel and, further up the mountain, the Mt. Charleston Lodge with 20-plus little private cabins.
In the summer, Mt. Charleston makes the perfect day trip to escape the scorching desert heat. With temperatures a good 30 – 40 degrees cooler, the alpine forest hikes can include views all the way to Utah and California.
This area also offers camping, parks to have picnics, mountain biking, snowshoeing, off-roading and more. One of the best best day trips from Las Vegas? We’re pretty sure you will say “yes” when you’re enjoying the great outdoors instead of the casinos.
Valley of Fire
Keeping with the outdoors theme, the Valley of Fire is the oldest state park in Nevada. Dedicated in 1935, the Valley of Fire offers hikes that wind through stunning red sandstone dating back to more than 150 million years when dinosaurs roamed the earth, ancient Native American petroglyphs, off-roading and more.
Roughly 50 miles northeast of town, explore on your own or book a tour to this breathtaking park.
Get a bit of history at the Hoover Dam. Originally known as Boulder Dam, this mammoth dam is located on the border of Nevada and Arizona and controls Lake Mead. Built in the 1930s, the dam helps control flooding from the Colorado River, and produces hydroelectric power to parts of Nevada, Arizona and California.
It also happens to be a major tourist attraction.
Head here to simply walk around the dam and pop your head over the railings to check out the river below, or spend a little money and take a tour of the plant itself that teaches visitors about the construction of the dam (did you know it was responsible for more than 100 deaths during its creation?), a gallery and more.
There are also daily tours which include a visit to the gallery, a tour of the facility and more. Book your tour now.
The Grand Canyon
It may not even be in the same state, but a trip to Las Vegas is the perfect jumping off point to explore the Grand Canyon. It’s also a no-brainer for one of the five best day trips from Las Vegas.
This natural wonder truly is worth a visit when in town. Because it isn’t super close (read: it’s about a two-hour drive from Vegas to the West Rim and Sky Walk), most opt to either book a day trip with a company or head via helicopter or small aircraft to explore the Grand Canyon.
If you opt to explore solo, then the West Rim is your best bet. Here, you can step out onto the glass sky walk hovering over the Colorado River, grab lunch and do a little exploration on your own.
Book your Grand Canyon tour today.
Red Rock Canyon
Another nature-lover spot, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one of the most popular day trips from Las Vegas.
A 30-minute drive from The Strip, Red Rock offers sandstone peaks, walls of Keystone Thrust to hike and climb, and an up-close look at the spectacular red rock formations.
Hike, bike or even simply drive through this park. There’s a one-way 13-mile loop through the park that includes the start of quite a few trail heads, spots to picnic and observation areas. Book your Red Rock Canyon Tour now.
Maybe this isn’t technically a day trip, but visiting Nelson, Nevada should be on any history-lover (or photography-lovers) itinerary.
This tiny ghost town with a population reported by the Census in 2010 as a meager 37 people, first dropped on the map in 1775 when the Spaniards discovered it in Eldorado Canyon. It also happens to be the area where the first major gold strike in the state occurred, leading to a massive gold and silver rush in the 1860s.
Over the years, it gained a reputation for being a part of the “wild west” because of the disagreements over ownership of the mines (which you can still see tucked into the hillsides today).
Located about 25 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Nelson is the perfect spot to wander around the few antique shops in the town, take at mine tour, or indulge your inner photographer and snap heaps of magazine-worthy vintage photos. Thanks to an old airplane buried nose-down in a nearby dune, abandoned buses and more, hit this spot at sunset when the scenery reflects the pinks and purples of the sky and get your photography on!
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Diana Edelman is the founder of Vegans, Baby. She previously lived and worked in Thailand where she spent years working for an elephant sanctuary and has traveled around the world speaking about the realities of elephant tourism. She is a public speaker who has appeared at SEED Food + Wine, VegFest Puerto Rico, VegFest Toronto and more, a journalist and entrepreneur. Diana is also behind the Vegas Vegan Dinners at James Beard Foundation’s James Beard House.