Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
National Parks near Las Vegas, Nevada
Think of Sin City and you probably think of gambling. However, Las Vegas offers so much more than glitzy casinos. This desert oasis in the American Southwest is a perfect departure point for many outdoor adventures. Whether you want to spend just a few hours away from the slot machines or set out on a weekend excursion, you'll have several superb outdoor destinations to choose from. Here are some of the top outdoor getaways and day trips near Las Vegas, Nevada.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada (20-Minute Drive)
Just 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, this striking red-rock landscape in the Mojave Desert with its unique rock formations is the perfect place to get away from the neon-lit hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. At Red Rock, visitors can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, picnics and camping. The park is open year-round, but the campground is often closed during the hotter summer months.
Death Valley National Park in California (2-Hour Drive)
This enormous national park features mysterious traveling boulders, brilliantly colored badlands, undulating sand dunes, an incongruous mansion in the middle of the desert, and North America's lowest elevation point. With so many stunning and often surreal attractions, Death Valley is a great destination for a weekend trip or an extended visit. Even better, it's about two hours by car from Las Vegas. Go in the winter for mild temperatures, and visit in the spring to view blossoming desert wildflowers.
South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona (4-Hour Drive)
Iconic and breathtaking, the Grand Canyon definitely measures up to its superlative reputation. Although it has been featured in numerous pictures and is well-known as one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon simply must be visited in order to appreciate its vast size. Visitors can hike to the bottom of the canyon or enjoy the view from the rim. The South Rim, the most popular and accessible part of Grand Canyon National Park, is about four hours by car from Las Vegas. The South Rim is open year-round, and it can become crowded in the summer. Winter sees fewer visitors, but the area can experience harsh weather conditions at this time of the year.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada (30-Minute Drive)
If you're craving the sight of blue water, head to Lake Mead - a man-made lake that lies on the Colorado River, it's the largest reservoir in the United States. At this large lake, which is less than an hour by car from Las Vegas, you can partake in activities that you wouldn't normally expect to find in the desert, such as swimming, fishing, and boating. If you have time, rent a houseboat, and explore the lake in leisurely comfort. You can also checkout the Hoover Dam while you're there. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is open year-round. Mild weather and consistently sunny skies make the area popular with snowbirds in the winter. In the summer, temperatures around Lake Mead can top 110 degrees.
Zion National Park in Utah (2.5-Hour Drive)
With multi-colored sandstone cliffs threaded by a refreshing river, Zion feels like a little piece of paradise in the southern Utah desert. First inhabited by the Anasazi and Paiute Indians, and later settled by Mormon pioneers, Zion offers modern visitors plenty of opportunities for adventure. Hiking trails lead to expansive vistas or into tiny slot canyons. Boaters can navigate the Virgin River, and the park's giant sandstone cliffs provide a challenging terrain for experienced rock climbers. Zion National Park is two and a half hours by car from Las Vegas. It's open every day of the year. Spring and fall are good times to visit the park for comfortable weather.
These are just a few of the stellar national parks near Las Vegas, but there are many more, like:
- Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah (4-Hour Drive)
- Arches National Park in Utah (6-Hour Drive)
- Joshua Tree National Park in California just outside of Los Angeles (3.5-Hour Drive)
- Great Basin National Park in Nevada (5-Hour Drive)
- Yosemite National Park in California (8-Hour Drive)
- Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado (8.5-Hour Drive)
- Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada (1-Hour Drive)
- Monument Valley in Utah/Arizona (6.5-Hour Drive)
- National Monument in Colorado (7-Hour Drive)
- Wheeler Peak in New Mexico (11-Hour Drive)
It's clear the National Park Service (NPS) has much to offer in and around Las Vegas. From the sandstone formations of Arches National Park to the sheer size of Grand Canyon National Park, with so many outdoor activities just a few hours' drive from the strip, you might never even make it to the casinos for all of the road trips.
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