Las Vegas, Nevada is well known as the city that never sleeps. Driving down the strip at night, it becomes abundantly clear why Sin City has that moniker. However, if you spent any more than a few days in las Vegas, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to see something other than traffic, lights and enormous buildings. Taking a day to refresh yourself in nature is something that helps the mind any time, but especially after spending any amount of time on the Las Vegas strip.
Here we list out our top natural attractions to take a day trip out of the city to explore some of the world’s natural wonders instead. All of these are well known by locals, but as a visitor to Las Vegas, this list may be just what you’re looking for to get away from the bright lights and loud sounds for the day.
7. Clark County Wetlands Park
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 10 miles (15 minute drive)
Clark County Wetlands Park is a large park located right in Las Vegas. It is only about 10 miles, or 15 minutes from the city center. This Las Vegas nature park covers an area of about 2,900 acres (1,168 hectares) and is home to a variety of plant and animal life.
Clark County Wetlands Park is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers, with over 200 species of birds that have been observed in the park. The park is home to a variety of plant species, including cottonwoods, willows, and reeds, which provide habitat for a variety of wildlife. The park is also home to a number of wetlands and riparian areas, which are important habitats for many species of birds and other wildlife.
The park offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking. It has a network of trails that wind through the park, offering a chance to see a variety of plant and animal life. The park also has a visitor center that offers educational exhibits and information about the park’s natural history.
6. Charleston Peak
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 40 miles (40 minute drive)
Charleston Peak, also known as Mount Charleston, is a mountain located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, near Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. The mountain is the highest peak in the Spring Mountains, with an elevation of 11,918 feet (3,633 meters). It is located about 45 minutes northwest of Las Vegas, and it is a popular destination for hiking, skiing, and rock climbing.
Charleston Peak is part of the Spring Mountain range that runs for about 60 miles (97 kilometers) through southern Nevada. The mountain is surrounded by a variety of plant and animal life, including pinyon pine, juniper, and mule deer. It is also home to a number of rare and endangered plant and animal species, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and the Mount Charleston pika.
The mountain is a popular destination for hikers, with a number of trails that lead to the summit. The most popular route is the South Loop Trail, which is a moderate to difficult hike that takes about 6-8 hours to complete. The trail starts at the trailhead near the bottom of the mountain and follows a series of switchbacks to the summit.
5. Hoover Dam / Lake Mead Recreation Area
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 40 miles (40 minute drive)
In less than an hour, you can be standing at the edge of one of America’s most impressive structures. Finished in 1936, the Hoover Dam is built on the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. The dam is used to generate hydropower to much of the southwest, including Las Vegas.
Don’t skip out on taking a tour of the facility to see how the power generation takes place. It is a massive structure that you really have to see to understand how large it actually is.
Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume when full, which it unfortunately has not been for quite some time. Lake Mead Recreational Area is a 1.5 million acre NPS-managed site that offers visitors a chance to swim, boat, hike, bicycle, camp, and fish.
4. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 16 miles (20 minute drive)
Red Rock Canyon was the first place we visited when we wanted to get away from Las Vegas for a morning. Being less than 20 minutes away from the city center didn’t hurt either… so it quickly became one of our favorites when visiting.
Since we’ve visited, the park has introduced a timed entry requirement, where you’ll need to reserve your visit ahead of time. Beginning October 2022, the Bureau of Land Management instituted timed reservations for vehicle entry to the Scenic Drive between 8am and 5pm. The scenic drive is most of the park, so if you’re visiting… you’ll need to get one of these tickets.
With over 30 hikes, Red Rock Canyon offers trails for everyone from the beginner to the expert. If you’re short on time, hike the Ash Spring Trail or visit the Pine Creek Canyon. Before heading out, grab a map at the Visitor Center (open from 9am-4:30pm daily).
3. Death Valley National Park
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 140 miles (2 hour, 10 minute drive)
Northwest of Las Vegas sits a national park that holds numerous world and US records.
Death Valley National Park is known for its extremes amid its desert landscapes. It is North America’s driest and hottest spot. It receives fewer than two inches of rainfall annually and has a record high of 134°F in the summer. It also has the lowest elevation on the continent, which is Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level.
When visiting from Las Vegas, first stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. From there you can decide the sights you want to visit or the hiking trails you want to take.
What you do will likely depend on the time of year you’re visiting. It is perfectly safe to visit in the summer if you use caution. First, drink and carry plenty of water with you. Carry with you and drink at least one gallon (4 liters) of water per day to replace loss from sweat, and drink more if you are active. Second, stay on paved roads in summer.
The fall, winter and spring months (October to April) see the most visitors due to the weather being much more enjoyable. Average high temperatures during these months range from 80°F in October to mid-50s in December and January.
2. Grand Canyon West Rim
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 125 miles (2 hour, 15 minute drive)
The Grand Canyon is a place that you simply need to see with your own eyes. Pictures simply do not do it justice.
However, visiting the Grand Canyon National Park from Las Vegas takes over 4 hours and 280 miles – one way! So instead, in order to see the canyon, you should visit the lesser known West Rim.
The West Rim of the Grand Canyon is not managed by the National Park Service, but rather the Hualapai Tribe. The West rim has the famed Skywalk glass bridge that stretches out over the canyon’s floor overlooking the Colorado River below. The West Rim is about 125 miles away from Las Vegas’ city center, and will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes to drive one way.
General Admission at the West Rim Grand Canyon starts at about $65 per person, and goes up from there if you decide to include meals and/or helicopter or boat rides.
The round trip from Las Vegas to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon would be about 250 miles (402 km), and would take about 4.5 hours.
1. Valley of Fire State Park
Distance Away from Las Vegas: 50 miles (1 hour drive)
Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is the perfect distance away from the hustle-bustle of Las Vegas.
This state park has 2,000 year old petroglyphs carved into massive red sandstone formations in the Mohave Desert. It is the largest (46,000 acres) and oldest state park in the state. This park consists of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains. The sandstone is from the Jurassic period and is the remnant of the sand left behind by the wind after inland seas subsided and the land rose. There are nearly 20 miles (32 km) of roadway in the Valley of Fire that seem to take you to a completely different world.
Tips for travelers visiting in 2023 or later—the state of Nevada is implementing a timed reservation system for all state parks beginning in 2023. This is not surprising as this Valley of Fire state park sees nearly 1 million visitors a year, so limiting traffic on peak days is essential. Plan ahead and reserve your spot if you plan on visiting!
Parks Maybe a Little Too Far Away
Nevada and California are chock-full of national and state parks that are some of the most amazing places you’ll ever see. The five we listed above are the closest to the Las Vegas Strip, however, there are even more if you’re willing to drive a little more.
Zion National Park (~2.5 hours away)
Zion National Park is one of my favorite national parks to visit, hands down. It is a little further away at 2.5 hours, and probably more of a destination park that you’d be better served visiting for longer than one day.
Bryce National Park (~4 hours away)
Bryce Canyon National Park is a stunning national park located in southern Utah about 4 hours east of Las Vegas. The park is known for its unique geology, with colorful rock formations and spires known as hoodoos that rise up from the ground. The park is located at a high elevation, with a dry and temperate climate that offers cool summers and cold winters.
Great Basin National Park (~5 hours away)
Great Basin National Park is located about 5 hours north of Las Vegas and is home to several ancient bristlecone pine groves. This park is also designated as an “International Dark Sky Place” by the International Dark Sky Association.