7 Top-Rated Day Trips from Las Vegas
Las Vegas isn't the only place worth visiting in Nevada. This massive state is blessed with stunning landscapes and an incredible history offering fantastic opportunities to explore and discover natural attractions within easy reach of the big, glittering city. Head west to the towering spires of Red Rock Canyon or the magnificent landscapes of Death Valley National Park. A trip east of Las Vegas will take you to Boulder City and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, then head north from the lake to explore the stunning landscape of solidified ancient sand dunes in Valley of Fire State Park. Cap a day trip east of the city with the Lost City ruins near Overton.
1 Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is in California but within easy driving distance of Las Vegas. You can bust away from the glitter of The Strip to explore what is truly a unique landscape. Death Valley is the largest national park in the United States outside of Alaska, and 95% of it is designated as wilderness by the United States Congress to preserve it wild character. The park has also been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve. Below sea level yet surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Death Valley is far from dead. This wildly diverse landscape ranges from dunes and fields of wildflowers to lakes that come and go with the rain. In spring, the valley bursts with life.
Be sure to visit the bizarre Racetrack Playa where tracks from rolling rocks scar the hard expanse of desert dirt. Also, don't miss the Devils Postpile National monument with its towering basalt columns. The routes to the park can be as worthwhile as the park itself. The most direct route to Death Valley from Las Vegas is through Pahrump. A slightly longer route will take you through Lathrop Wells. Perhaps the most interesting route is known as the "Ghost Town Route" that takes you through Beatty, the Rhyolite ghost town, and Hell's Gate. The most scenic route follows state highway 160 west and then takes up the Old Spanish Trail and then California state highways 127, 178, and 190.
2 Hoover Dam
A marvel of modern engineering, Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression partly as a way to put unemployed men back to work. More than 100 of those men died during the construction of the 726-foot-high dam. A 45-minute drive from the center of Las Vegas, the dam contains Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. Today, the dam provides hydroelectric power to much of Nevada, Arizona, and California. More than one million people visit every year.
3 Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (NCA) is only 17 miles from The "Strip." It has been protected and managed as an NCA since 1990. The area boasts stunning geological features, including the namesake massive red rock formations that tower up to 3,000 feet high above the Mojave Desert. Visitors can take an amazing 13-mile scenic drive and explore more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Other activities within the park include horseback riding, camping, mountain biking, and 4WD trails. Head west from Las Vegas on State Road 592 and then follow the well-signed route to the northwest. http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/
4 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The National Park Service manages the Lake Mead National Recreation Area where visitors will find a plethora of outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, boating, diving, and swimming, as well as biking, and four-wheel driving. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is well serviced by marinas and tour companies. The large paddle wheel boat, Desert Princess, cruises the lake daily. At 112 miles long, the lake is the largest reservoir in the United States. It doesn't take long to get here; head east about 30 miles from the center of Las Vegas through Henderson. If you plan on boating, be sure to check the water depth levels as they fluctuate throughout the year and can change dramatically year over year. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is open all year round.
5 Boulder City
Out in the deserts about 20 miles from The Strip is the little oasis town of Boulder City, the gateway to Lake Mead. Easily within reach of the Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City feels like the peaceful small town it is. Here, you will find golf courses, swimming pools, and a vast array of hiking trails. Be sure to visit the Indian and Turquoise Museum, the Hoover Dam Museum, and the Boulder City Historic District. Take a ride on the Nevada Southern Railway train at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, then climb the Red River Mountain hiking trail. Boulder City is also the perfect place to arrange excursions to Lake Mead like kayaking and mountain biking trips.
6 Valley of Fire State Park
Just 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire State Park. The Valley of Fire covers more than 42,000 acres of haunting sandstone formations created from sand dunes that settled in and solidified here during the time of dinosaurs. Human occupation of the valley dates to 3,000 years ago. The park contains numerous rock drawings scratched on its red sandstone by ancient people of the Pueblo culture. The hiking trails through Valley of Fire State Park lead to petroglyphs, unique rock formations, and stunning views. The park is known primarily for its red rock. There is a modern visitors center here, picnic areas, and campsites. Take Interstate 15 north from the city and head east on the Valley of Fire Highway.
7 Lost City Museum of Archeology
The Lost City Museum of Archeology is in Overton, just north of the Valley of Fire, in the Moapa Valley. Formerly known as the Boulder Dam Park Museum, the Lost City is a must see for amateur archaeologists and students of history alike. The museum highlights the Pueblo Grande de Nevada, an ancient site showing signs of human occupation that is at least 8,000 years old. The extant ruins were founded by the Basketmaker people about AD 300. Later, the Ancestral Puebloans built a small town that was occupied until AD 1150. Laid out in the three wings of the museum building tourists will find a wide variety of archaeological treasures. Of note are the Anasazi artifacts and the original Pueblo foundation found by the US Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. The museum regularly hosts artwork by local artists.