Is there life beyond the flashing neon lights of Las Vegas?
Yes, and you’ll be wowed on these day trips from Vegas at the natural beauty and fun adventures that lie waiting for you just outside of Sin City.
These Nevada attractions are real and stunning and offer a different element to your Las Vegas vacation.
From red rock canyons, pink wave rocks, aqua lakes and sweeping Colorado River views we highly recommend you incorporate at least one of the these day trips from Las Vegas.
The majority of them are located all within an hours drive of The Strip.
Many people suggest taking Vegas day trips out to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in Utah, but we do not recommend doing that. It’s a long drive there (4 hrs to Bryce and 3 hours to Zion each way).
Those above mentioned US national parks are so sensational, you will want to dedicate more than just a day!
We found these things to do near Las Vegas a refreshing break from Las Vegas Strip wanderings, casino hopping and free alcohol. And we were pretty tame as we were visiting Las Vegas with kids.
During our Vegas trip we had a great mix of traditional Vegas style on the strip and going beyond Vegas to enjoy the natural beauty.
Grab a rental car from Las Vegas and away you go. Check rental prices here. Or you could also join a guided tour for these places to visit near Vegas.
See options at the end of each day trip suggestion below and at the bottom of this post. Run the numbers as it may end up cheaper doing a tour depending on how many are in your group!
This list of things to do near Las Vegas wowed me with natural beauty. I can’t believe these stories aren’t told more. I only heard of these places a couple of months ago – and I’ve been to Vegas before!
1. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Valley of Fire is definitely one of the best day trips from Vegas. If you have to choose one activity to do close to Las Vegas, this is it. It made our list of cool places to visit in the USA.
You can guess by it’s name what you will find in here – literally a valley of fire. But you’ve got rainbow lands in here as well as white domes kingdoms and packs of bighorn sheep,
It’s easy to explore in a day and many of the hikes are easily accessed from the road and doable at under 2 miles and flat.
You can read our in-depth post on things to do in the Valley of Fire State Park here. See our tip below in the Lake Mead section for an incredible scenic drive to combine with your trip to Valley of Fire.
Here are a few of the hikes at the Valley of Fire we enjoyed.
Head down the sandy track and past the petroglyphs into a box canyon. It’s a pretty walk that leads you to a small pool of collected rainwater where the outlaws the trail is named after used to hide.
There are plenty of giant boulders for the kids to climb over and the rock faces are dotted with caves they can hide in.
I loved this Rainbow Vista hike so much!
It was such a pretty and colorful environment. We were surrounded by pink, orange, and red mountains. It takes you through a wide field and eventually leads to a red rock canyon overlook. See if you can spot me in the photo?
Fire Wave Trail
This is one of the most popular walks in the Valley of Fire State Rock for it’s wave rock and vibrant colors. It’s probably one of the prettiest hikes in the United States.
Again, you’re in a world that has every color of the rainbow and various hues of it. Savannah and I had fun pointing out all the different colors.
The trail follows a sandy path and then over criss-crossing sandstone to the main event – The Fire Wave. Here the sandstone forms a wave that is made up of pretty pink and white stripes.
White Dome Loop
I loved this short loop descending down a rocky staircase to the desert floor and through a slot canyon and finishing with an expansive view of the desert.
Popular Valley of Fire Tours
- Pink Jeep run adventure tours to Valley of Fire
- This full day tour of Valley of Fire also visit Anasazi Lost City section which we missed.
- Check rental car prices here for independent travelers
Watch our Valley of Fire video
Check out the fun we had at Lake Mead. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel
2. Grand Canyon West, Arizona
Can you believe you can take a day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas?
Yep! But we do not recommend you do a South Rim Grand Canyon day trip from Las Vegas as it’s a 4 hour drive each way, unless you do a tour and you are ok with a very LONG day, or do a helicopter tour.
So, if you’re dying to see the Grand Canyon and only have a short time, then you can visit the West Rim!
This will be the longest of the day trips from Vegas we recommend in this post. If you visit this place outside of Vegas, you’ll be crossing over into Arizona. Checking another US state off your list!
While I think the Grand Canyon is spectacular no matter where you visit, I did find the West Rim experience a little underwhelming.
One BIG contributing factor to that was that the glass floor Skywalk, which it is famous for, and the Eagle Point where it is located were closed.
Sadly, about 30-minutes before we arrived a man from Hong Kong stumbled and fell over the edge to his death so they had to close it to recover his body.
Unlike the South Rim, there are no protective barriers here at Grand Canyon West. It was quite scary and we had to keep a very close watch on our kids.
They did give us a small discount on the ticket as it wasn’t opened, but it meant we only had Guano Point to visit. I felt it was overpriced for the experience.
You cannot take your own food in either (although they don’t check) and the food is only one option and very expensive at $16. It was a roast chicken or beef and was beautifully cooked. Craig and I shared one as did the girls.
Grand Canyon West is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is owned by the Native American, Hualapai Nation. It’s only a new attraction so I do think there is loads of potential and work being done to create more of an experience.
You do get beautiful views of the Colorado River at Grand Canyon West.
The third shuttle stop takes you to a small village, Hualapai Ranch, which is strangely set up like a Wild West cowboy town. I’d much prefer activities and attractions that helped me learn more about the Hualapai history and culture.
They have accommodation and horseback rides also.
If you don’t have time to go to the South Rim, then Grand Canyon West is a great option as a day trip from Vegas as it is only a two hour drive.
Popular Tours to Grand Canyon West
There is a cool Joshua tree forest on the drive in which would be an awesome stopping point if you have not been to Joshua Tree National Park.
3. Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area, Nevada
Red Rock Canyon blew my mind!
It’s this random outcropping of bubbly rocks that change from pink to blood red, orange, yellow and white. They are surrounded by the red and pink tinged White mountains, and a valley of green desert brush.
It was looking lush when we visited which is not Vegas typical. And what about this for an easy day trip from Vegas – it is only 30-minutes drive from the Strip!
Can you believe it? You can pop over for a couple of hours and be back in time for happy hour. Maybe make it a daily visit even on your Vegas vacation!
I was so disappointed we didn’t have more time to do more hiking. I especially would have loved hiking and rock scrambling among the Calico Hills.
We did a short hike from the Visitors Center to look at them.
We enjoyed the 13-mile one way loop scenic drive around the area which has overlooks, picnic areas and loads of hikes.
We stopped off at the Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail which had me thinking I was in Yosemite. The Riparian environment gave us pine trees, a spring and even a waterfall you could walk behind. (it’s not there year round).
It was only a mile return and with its rocky path and hidden trail offshoots the kids will love it.
The Junior Ranger activity booklet and badge were awesome as well.
If you love rock climbing, this is the place to come. Yep. Just outside of Vegas you can climb real rock! Calico Hills is the place for it. We’re saving that for our next trip to Vegas. We decided to go horse riding instead.
Popular Red Rock Canyon Tours
Red Rock would have cost us $15 for a day pass. We have an annual National Parks Pass which gives unlimited access to federal lands. It costs $80 a year. It’s absolutely worth it for a trip like ours and saves us hundreds of dollars.
Horse Riding Red Rock Canyon
Savannah wants to write her second post for us on our horse riding experience with Cowboy Trails just outside the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
It was a 90-minute ride through a dry river bed with stunning view of the Red Rocks and spring Mountains in front of us. The adventurous trail involved a few rocky hills through a narrow gorge.
I was perfectly paired with my horse, Traveler, who had a wonderful temperament. He didn’t need much guidance at all and didn’t try any sneaky snacking. All the horses seemed so beautiful.
This is definitely one of the best things to do near Las Vegas with kids!
You can also purchase tickets in advance for this 2 hour horseback ride with view of Red Rock Canyon through Viator here.
Watch our Red Rock Canyon video
Check out the fun we had at Red Rock. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel
4. Lake Mead National Recreational Area, Nevada
Again, one of the best Las Vegas day trips at only 40-minutes drive from the Strip near Boulder City.
Lake Mead Recreational Area is a playground of striking landscapes and brilliant blue waters offering opportunity for hiking, biking, fishing and water playing.
It was created as a result of the Hoover Dam and adds a way better experience to your Las Vegas trip!
We spent nearly a week in the Lake Mead area camping. It was a stunning Vegas break. It’s hard to believe something like this exists out in the desert.
From biking and hiking trails, ghost towns, water activities, scenic drives, cruises and the Hoover Doom, there is a lot to see. You can read more ideas in our in-depth post on things to do in Lake Mead Recreational Area.
I found the lake itself to be more impressive and we loved the Hoover Dam Tour we did that included a cruise on the lake. Check out these views of Black Canyon seen from our boat. This is Vegas baby!
But the most spectacular thing we did at Lake Mead was the stunning Northshore Scenic Drive and one of our favorite places to visit near Las Vegas by car. It’s one of the USA’s most scenic drives.
One of the most spectacular drives in the US and easily on par with Scenic Highway 12 in Utah. You could combine the Northshore scenic drive with Valley of Fire State Park.
It is on the way and is probably a 30-60 minute detour. Highly recommend!
Popular Lake Mead Tours
Watch our Lake Mead Video
Check out the fun we had at Lake Mead. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel
Popular Vegas Tours
Las Vegas Sightseeing Pass
Our Hoover Dam tour was part of our Las Vegas Sightseeing Pass, which is a city attractions pass that offers savings on popular attractions. Included are many Las Vegas attractions.
You can learn more about how we saved money in Las Vegas using them!
They even have a USA pass if you plan to travel through multiple US cities in 30 days. We work with The Sightseeing Pass as affiliate partners and they provide us with the passes. We share them because they offer great savings.
We’ll be doing more of the attractions on the pass when we revisit Vegas.
The Go City Pass is another discount tourist pass with huge savings on Las Vegas attractions.
More Places near Vegas to Visit
Check out these other things to do outside of Las Vegas.