Las Vegas is a bucket list destination. Known as the entertainment capital of the world, this city has enough stuff to keep you busy for weeks. While there is no shortage of things to do within the city’s limits, Las Vegas is conveniently located between a bunch of incredible natural wonders that make for great day trips. In this quick blog post I’ll give you my top 4 national park day trips from Las Vegas and what you can expect at each one. Also, if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and trying to save some money (who isn’t?), be sure to check out my post on visiting Las Vegas on a budget.
1. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking. It’s impossible to express just how large it really is! Hiking through the Grand Canyon doesn’t even feel like you’re on Earth. The Grand Canyon is divided into four main regions: the North Rim, the South Rim, the East Grand Canyon, and the West Grand Canyon. Depending which one you’re visiting, the drive will take anywhere from 2.5 to 5.5 hours from Las Vegas.
The West Grand Canyon is located on a Native American Reservation and is known for its skywalk above the canyon and its proximity to Las Vegas. It is not nearly as awesome as the South Rim, but is certainly worth the trip if you have limited time on a day trip from Las Vegas.
The East Grand Canyon is located on the Navajo Reservation, and is most famous for its stunning sights around Page, Arizona. Places like Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Lake Powell are found here. We spent a night in Page, Arizona and regret not having another day. This side of the canyon is very far from Las Vegas, but is an ideal stopping point if you’re doing a looped road trip from Las Vegas to various National Parks in Arizona and Utah.
The North Rim is known for its quiet resorts. This is a much more laid back area, and is much more secluded than its southern counterpart. Travelers who go to the North Rim are more immersed in the nature and wildlife that fill the canyon, and they see fewer tourists in the process.
Finally, the South Rim is the main area that people go to visit the Grand Canyon. It has the most hiking trails, the widest viewpoints, and the most infrastructure. When people think of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim tends to be the thing that comes to their mind, whether they know it or not. The South Rim has hikes of all levels, ranging from 30 minute loops to several day treks down into the canyon. For a quick, beginner level hike, I highly recommend Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail. If you’re looking for more information about the Grand Canyon, check out my post on driving from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon!
2. Zion National Park
Zion National Park is the greatest place that you can go on a day trip from Las Vegas, in my honest opinion. The park is much smaller than some of the others on this list, but it is absolutely jam-packed with incredible sights, trails, and experiences. We had always heard that Zion National Park is fantastic, but we weren’t quite sure what to expect; let’s just say it lives up to the hype.
Zion National Park is located in Utah, about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas. Upon arrival, you’ll want to either park in the town of Springdale (paid, but plentiful) or at the Zion National Park Visitor Center (free, but limited). If you get there early enough in the day, you shouldn’t have any problems finding free parking. Once you’re parked you can take the free park shuttle service to anywhere in the park. There are several stops, and the driver nicely announces which trails can be done from each one.
This park has hikes ranging across all ability and thrill-seeking levels. There are beginner hikes with no steep drops like the Riverside Walk and the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools trails, there are intermediate hikes that aren’t necessarily difficult but do cross very steep drops, and intense trails like the Narrows and Angel’s Landing. Whatever you choose to do, just remember to be open to stretching your comfort zone, but don’t push yourself further than you need to. It’s all about having fun, anyway!
3. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a unique place. It is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park in the United States – in fact, it’s the lowest point in North America. Located just across the California border, this park sits a nice 2 hours away from Las Vegas.
Most people visit Death Valley National Park just to witness the unbearable heat. While that may sound crazy, it makes sense to wonder just how hot 130 degrees Fahrenheit is! Death Valley National Park has a lot more history to it than just that, though, from a volcanic crater, to wildlife like roadrunners, to Star Wars filming locations, and more. If you do make the trip, consider staying until a few hours after the sunset; there is probably no better place in the country to stargaze.
Honestly, Death Valley National Park is just an extremely remote place filled with very random things to do. Part of the beauty of visiting is that you don’t know what to expect, and you’re bound to find something that interests you!
4. The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam was the greatest engineering feat of its time, and it still remains one today. When it was constructed in the early 1900s it was the biggest dam in the world by a very wide margin. Building the dam was such a job that an entire town of workers sprung up a couple of miles away, and that town remains today.
Being the biggest dam in the world, you can imagine that this thing stops massive amounts of water. I mean, the thing is 726 feet tall. In fact, the largest man-made reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, was a byproduct of the Hoover Dam! The Hoover Dam does more than just create a lake – it creates enough hydroelectricity to serve almost 1.5 million people.
The Hoover Dam belongs on this list especially because of how close it is to Las Vegas. You can get to the Hoover Dam from the Las Vegas Strip in under an hour as long as traffic isn’t bad. I highly recommend checking out the visitor center and taking a tour in the morning, and then spending the afternoon relaxing on Lake Mead.