Last Updated on February 10, 2023 by Sammie
12 Amazing & Unique Day Trips From Las Vegas
I have been living in and out of Vegas since leaving my job as an acrobat in Dubai. I decided to “move” (it’s nomadic living more than anything) here to try my hand in the entertainment world that saturates this city. But it can get a bit stuffy here and I quickly realized the desperate need to get out and take a day trip from Las Vegas to keep what’s left of my sanity. Thankfully I have amazing friends who have shown me the countless day trips from Vegas that exist. It might seem like a place to drink and eat until our stomachs burst (it is) but it’s also a place of immense outdoor activity!!
Many believe Vegas is just a bunch of casinos in a desert. They aren’t totally wrong. However, it is a bunch of casinos in a desert close to many other destinations! There is a load of hiking to be done, snowboarding nearby, and National Parks to Insta about.
Table of Contents
1. Go Bouldering at Red Rocks
Not too many think of bouldering when they think of Las Vegas. But Red Rock Canyon is only a ridiculously short 20-minute drive from the city. It’s a great kept secret that the Red Rocks are a great bouldering site with slopers and steeps that are friendly on the fingertips due to the soft texture of the terracotta clay sandstone. But pay attention to the weather, because due to the porousness of the sandstone, it is HIGHLY advised to avoid bouldering within 2-3 days after it rains. You don’t want to be the guy or gal that breaks a crucial hold because you were too eager to get up there after a storm.
2. Go Snowboarding or Skiing
I was very ignorant before to Las Vegas, I had ZERO idea that there were so many options for skiing and snowboarding around. I mean, in hindsight, the city is in a valley surrounded by mountains…but regardless! The thought never occurred! If you know you know but if you didn’t, I’m here. Check out a few of my favorite spots to slide down a snowy mountain.
50 minutes from Las Vegas
A great option just 50 miles from the strip. On average, Lee Canyon gets about 240 inches of snowfall annually. It isn’t a huge place but it’s perfect for a morning out and quick enough to be home for dinner. There are 3 chair lifts and 195 acres of lift-accessed terrain.
Big Bear Mountain
2 hours from Las Vegas
A good option for boarders, it gears toward the more freestyle inclined with a host of halfpipes as well as the largest beginner area for boarders. Big Bear also has some amazing terrain parks suiting all levels from beginner to expert.
3 hours from Las Vegas
For some reason, Brian’s Head does not get the crowds that other slopes get which will be great for you. The snow is dry and fluffy which helps those of us who fall down every 23 seconds (ehem…moi). And the terrain is perfect for beginner to intermediate riders.
3.5 hours from Las Vegas
The sister slopes of Big Bear. Just as great as Big Bear, just with a few subtle differences. Summit is fantastic for boarding (I loved it) but is a more “traditional” experience that the skiers love. They tend to have better conditions as well and offer night skiing options.
5 hours from Las Vegas
Iz big. I’m talkin 3,500 acres of skiable terrain with 3,100 feet of vertical drop. With so much terrain to cover there’s something for everyone. Mammoth also gets to claim the title of having one of the longest ski seasons in the country, often going until mid-May and possibly even July! Maybe a little far for a day trip but manageable in 2.
3. Pahrump Winery
Is this Napa Valley? No. Will your world be forever changed by the complexity of flavor in their wines? Probably not. But it was a wonderful day trip to take to get out of the city. They have the absolute cutest restaurant and everyone who works there is lovely to talk to and gives you all the information they have about the winery. My girlfriend and I went for an afternoon as her boyfriend went hiking, same same but different. We split a bottle at lunch then spent the rest of the day outside in the sunshine sampling the different wines available. I’d suggest the white wines as they seemed to pull through the best from the sandy soil but my gal pal swore by their red blend.
NOTE: Sometimes closed in the winter due to cold temperatures.
4. Camping at Lee Canyon
There is some BEAUTIFUL camping to be done a little further out from Vegas. After driving a short 3 hours and getting to Lee Canyon in the afternoon, we had plenty of time to pitch our tent and wander the grounds. The view of the valley is breathtaking and it feels as if you are a world away from the neon lights and shouting drunks of the strip. The spot we settled in allowed for off-grid camping which I highly suggest. It gives you more privacy and seclusion and it makes you feel as if you are lost in nature in the most magical way. Grab a 6 pack of beers and some blankets and count the shooting stars above you, there are so many you’ll probably lose count.
5. Roadtrip to AREA 51
Have the itch to search for some extraterrestrial life? You aren’t alone that’s for sure. Area 51 has long been thought of as a top-secret government alien testing ground, the perfect remote area for UFO sightings. In reality, it IS a high surveillance government area that’s only been revealed in 2013 but it’s not for aliens (supposedly). It’s for testing new advanced military aircraft which is not as much fun to think about. But if you’re in the market for a cosmic field trip from Vegas, grab a friend, because you don’t want to do this alone, and hit the road. But, just so we are all on the same page, you do not get to go inside AREA 51. The closest you can get to it is 15 miles away, but you can see some cool guards standing at its perimeter!
How to get there: Take i-15 N to US Route 93 (Great Basin Highway). After 90 minutes you will end up in Crystal Springs (this is where you can find the Extraterrestrial Highway sign). Head north on S.R 375, which is the Extraterrestrial Highway, to experience a 98-mile stretch of road that gets you as close to Area 51 as you can get, without the government greeting you with a not-so-friendly hello. You will eventually end up in a tiny town called Rachel, the self-declared UFO Capital of the world! After the Extraterrestrial Highway comes to a finish keep going west until you end up in Tonopah. Make sure you add in some time for stargazing, as this place was THE place to see stars once upon a time in the USA. At this point, you might as well head south on 95 to swing by Death Valley on your way back to Vegas.
6. Kayak Black Canyon
Vegas might by a desert but there is a nice lengthy 30-mile stretch of water along the Colorado River for your kayaking, paddling, or rafting pleasure. There are slot canyons, secluded beaches, and hidden caves to explore while floating down the riverway. It’s an easy day trip from Vegas and a perfect way to get away from it all. The easier route would be to go from the base of Hoover Dame to Willow Beach, this stretch has typically calm flat waters that are manageable for kayaks. If you continue down the waterway expect the water to pick up in speed.
The logistics: You will need to be dropped off at the designated Black Canyon Water Trail launch point from a shuttle by an approved vendor. You will need a permit (which is done through the vendors) and are $32. The permits sell out months in advance so this will be a trip that requires some planning. Here is a list of the approved Black Canyon Shuttle Vendors.
7. Experience a Desert Chase in a Dune Buggy
Click HERE for more information.
It’s quite possible you saw these guys on one of the 50 shows that they have been featured on. The peeps at Sun buggy are no joke and are the leading off-road ATV tour company in Vegas. They have lots of different rental options including ATVs, Polaris RZRs (had to look this one up), Desert Racers(also had to look this one up), and Dune Buggies that seat 1, 2, and 4 people. The tour options cater to many different preferences so you’ll be able to find one that fits your style and party perfectly. Their most famous tour option being the Vegas Mini Baja Chase; where you traverse 15,000 acres of desert dunes with the Las Vegas strip in the distance. This is the famed tour that all those TV shows are raving about!
8. Off Roading on Nelson Roller Coaster
There are a ton of offroading options around Vegas, Nelson Roller Coaster being just one. I went offroading once and nearly flipped the car and have been slightly too terrified to try again. BUT my friends love it and can’t get enough of geeking out with their jeeps. As for Nelson Roller Coaster, it’s a bit more up my alley. It’s a moderate trail that takes about 1-2 hours, that starts off with gorgeous scenic views that casually increase in grade, eventually to 40-degree climb at a certain point. The area is right outside of Nelson which is about 50 minutes from the strip.
Not sure if off roading is for me, as the one time we got stuck I almost jumped out of the car thinking I was going to fall to my doom. But people love it!!
Here are a few other off-roading trails popular in Vegas:
1. Potato Ridge Road- Difficult
2. Nelson Goldmine Trail- Difficult
3. Anniversary Mine Trail- Difficult
4. Bitter Springs Back Country Byway- Moderate
5. Mormon Well Road- Moderate
6. Alamo road- Easy
7. Mile Road- Easy
9. Grand Canyon VIA Route 66
Worthy of note: there are 2 options to see the grand canyon by driving from Vegas.
Option A– The most common road trip is to the South Rim, taking about 4.5 hours of driving time. For some, this still could be a well-worthy day trip if you take into consideration the historic Route 66 drive as part of the activities for the day. Visit old western ghost towns like Oatman and stop at the Route 66 Museum in Kingman. By means of the 4.5-hour drive along Route 66, you’ll be on your way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Option B– Driving 2.5 hours to West Rim which is not managed by the National Park Service but by the Hualapai tribe. This is where the famous glass walkway that stretches over the canyon floor is. This is the better option for a day trip as the rim is smaller with less things to do, but if you’d rather spend the night or a couple days at the Grand Canyon, my vote would be for heading to the South Rim. Either way, prepare to have your jaw drop.
10. Stargaze in Death Valley
Death Valley is pretty darn tootin huge but you can see a portion of it in a day. There are two main entry points to Death Valley from Vegas. The first is Death Valley Junction which is 1 hr 35 minutes from Vegas and the other is Beatty which is 1hr 45 min from Vegas. If you are crazy you should attempt to get there for sunrise at Zabriskie Point, also equally beautiful at sunset. Another hot attraction (Death Valley hot…sorry I’ll stop) are the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Big Dune is commonly missed and is a great way to avoid the crowds in high season.
It’s easy to spend a day in Death Valley but what rounds this out as an amazing trip idea is to stay into the evening. Death Valley doesn’t close and is certified at the highest tier (Gold tier) by the International Dark Sky Association. This means it’s freakin’ dark at night and is an AMAZING place to stargaze and catch the Milky Way.
11. Hike Valley of Fire
Did you know that Star Wars filmed scenes in Death Valley?? Yep, it’s true, Episode IV- A New Hope and Episode V- Return of the Jedi. It’s less than an hour from Vegas, making it a really doable day trip from the city. Every time I have gone has been during the week and there have not been many crowds however I hear that during peak season (Spring and Fall) it can get crazy crowded, so it’s best to show up as early as possible. Sunrise is gorgeous here! Valley of Fire is famous for its bright red Aztec sandstone with ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs (rock carvings) over 2 centuries old. It’s an amazing spot to hike as there are quite a few trails and none of them are very long so you can cover a handful in one trip. And if you plan accordingly, bring some bbq to grill because there are grills and firepits scattered throughout the park.
12. Check out Antelope Canyon
Now, this last option on the list will be a stretch for a day trip but if you’re willing to spend the night and come back the following day, it might be well worth it for you. It’s a 4.5-hour drive from the strip, which can make for a long day trip or a perfect 2-day trip. Antelope Canyon is the famed canyon that has beautiful slots that create sunbeams from above and shadow art. The rock formations come in beautiful hues of orange, red, and brown and are very unique to the eye. The most important thing to know about Antelope Canyon is that it is operated by the Navajo Parks and Recreation and requires you to be on an authorized tour in order to be allowed in.
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