Destination Las Vegas and Beyond
Las Vegas is one of the world’s entertainment meccas, and within hours of the Strip you can see the world’s largest canyon, the lowest and hottest spot in the United States, the largest national wildlife refuge and national forest in the lower 48 states and one of the world’s best-known engineering marvels.
Whether you choose to experience more extreme options like rock climbing or driving on sand dunes or more relaxing options like taking a photo safari or a short hike, the opportunities are endless. View what awaits you beyond the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip in this video produced by the BLM Southern Nevada District Office, then use our list of destinations to plan your trip!
Did you know the Las Vegas Strip is a designated All American Road? The US Department of Transportation awards this designation to roads with unique qualities that make them tourist destinations. On a nighttime trip down the 4.5 mile Strip, you’ll see the most concentrated collection of neon lights in the world. On a daytime trip, you may be surprised to find the Strip offers Smithsonian-affiliated museums like the Las Vegas Natural History Museum or the Las Vegas Art Museum. Las Vegas also offers an assortment of quirky “only-in-Las-Vegas” finds like the Neon Museum and Boneyard, the Atomic Testing Museum and the Pinball Hall of Fame. Check Las Vegas’ Best Kept Secret: Museums for more information.
Located on the Nevada and Arizona border, Hoover Dam releases the Colorado River—an important water and energy source for Nevada, Arizona and California—into Lake Mead. A million visitors tour inside the dam walls each year and learn its history. Don’t miss the opportunity to also walk along the top of the dam, named one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. For spectacular views of Black Canyon and Hoover Dam, take a short side trip to the Mike O' Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the highest concrete arch bridge in the world. At about 35 miles (50 minutes) east of the Strip, Hoover Dam makes a perfect day trip.
Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. Five marinas offer access to Lake Mead (and Lake Mohave formed by Davis Dam, below Hoover), with year-round activities including boating, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking and scuba diving. Along the lakes’ shores you’ll find opportunities to camp, bike and hike or escape to higher ground with breathtaking views in the Mount Wilson Wilderness Area. Lake Mead is 27 miles (40 minutes) east of the Strip.
Start your adventure along a 13-mile scenic drive through the Mojave Desert in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Several stops along the way offer photo opportunities, picnic areas and access to 30 miles of trails leading through colorful geologic formations, past waterfalls and petroglyphs. Red Rock is also a renowned rock-climbing destination and popular with mountain and road cyclists. Read our Spotlight article Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation Area for more details. Located 17 miles (20 minutes) west of the Strip.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is the largest national forest outside of Alaska, with non-contiguous sections scattered throughout Nevada and a portion of eastern California. One of these sections is less than an hour from the Strip and offers refreshing Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Spring Mountains includes Mt. Charleston, the third tallest mountain in Nevada at nearly 12,000 feet. In summer, this mountain range offers a cool escape from the desert floor. During the winter, it is the place for snow sports! Spring Mountains also offers hiking, picnicking and camping. Among the over thirty campgrounds on the Humboldt-Toiyabe, those within Spring Mountains National Recreation Area include Dolomite, Fletcher View, Hilltop, Kyle Canyon, Mahogany Grove and McWilliams. Spring Mountains is 43 miles (about 55 minutes) from the Strip.
The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest refuge in the continental United States, established to preserve the desert bighorn sheep along with the six mountain ranges that form its habitat. Today, it also protects the endangered desert tortoise and Pahrump poolfish, as well as two threatened and 29 other sensitive plant and animal species. Visitors enjoy wildlife photography, horseback riding, backpacking and picnicking. The refuge is one of five refuges in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the closest to Las Vegas. The refuge’s Corn Creek Field Station is located 34 miles (about 50 minutes) north of the Strip.
Whatever your ultimate destination, a trip along any of these routes will inspire wonder and awe.
Las Vegas is at the edge of the Grand Circle of the American Southwest, with great destinations in every direction. This makes Las Vegas a great place to start your trip beyond the Strip to destination national parks—the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Joshua Tree or Great Basin, or destination cities—Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City or even Denver. Be sure and check Grand Circle Itinerary Ideas. Try searching for “Las Vegas” and you’ll find road trips beginning (or ending) at the Strip. The Nevada Commission on Tourism provides even more itineraries.
Travel through the Heart of the Mojave and onto Lake Havasu for a fun day trip (or longer) from Vegas. From Las Vegas, the trip to Lake Havasu is 130 miles (about two and a half hours). If you’re already traveling from Vegas to Yuma or Phoenix, Arizona, add 14 or 65 miles respectively to the more direct routes.
To visit this area, travel south from Vegas on Highway 95 and cross the border into California. At Needles, California, stop at the Heart of the Mojave Information Center located at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Needles Field Office to learn about the wide variety of adventures you can enjoy here—from motorized off-road adventures to the solitude of wilderness. Snowbirds (northerners who move to warmer states in the winter) come to the Heart of the Mojave for its proximity to Las Vegas, its dispersed camping, rockhounding and for the area's historical significance.
From Needles, continue across the Arizona border for a stop at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, a 37,515-acre refuge that protects 318 Pacific Flyway migrating bird species along the lower part of the Colorado River. The refuge offers fishing and canoeing through 20-mile Topock Gorge or hiking and hunting in the Havasu Wilderness Area. Download a refuge brochure for complete information.
Thirty miles from the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, you can bask in the sun while participating in traditional water-based activities or walking across the incongruously placed London Bridge. The bridge was dismantled from its original home on the River Thames and reconstructed at Lake Havasu in 1971.
If your life list includes either Zion National Park, with its steep valley cliffs, waterfalls and rich history, or the North Rim, the wilder, more secluded and harder to reach side of the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas makes a great starting point. From Vegas, Zion National Park is 164 miles (about three hours) and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is 285 miles (about 5 and a half hours), and depending on where you stop and smell the cliffroses, you can easily extend both the miles and the travel time!
Travel north from Las Vegas on Interstate 15 to picturesque St. George, Utah, then stop at the Dixie/Arizona Strip Interagency Visitor Center to learn about hiking, backpacking or canoeing on the Dixie National Forest. Ask the friendly staff about what it takes to visit remote and wild Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument (or if you prefer an armchair visit, try the virtual tour). From St. George, it’s a little over an hour to Zion.
Zion National Park visitors come to view spectacular deep red cliffs, to hike to Angel’s Landing with its chain-lead trail along vertical cliffs (if you’re not sure you want to challenge your fear of heights, watch the park’s Angel’s Landing eHike), or to canyoneer The Narrows or Subway. Camping reservations are available or check this list of Zion’s Lodging and Food Services.
From Zion National Park, traveling east on Utah State Route 9 you’ll drive through the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on the way to the junction of US 89. Then you’ll face a tough decision—turn north to Bryce Canyon National Park or south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? Travelers with a little more time could consider driving as far as Vermillion Cliffs National Monument to hike in Paria Canyon and Coyote Buttes, or to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where Lake Powell and its unique red-rock and slot-canyon rich shoreline stretch for hundreds of miles from Page, Arizona into Utah.
If Grand Canyon National Park is your final destination, the South Rim makes a great base from which to explore. Just be sure to stay here for a while—you need more than just a few hours to experience this wonder!
Traveling from the Strip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, a popular route is to begin driving south on US 93. You can stop at Hoover Dam on your way out of town or at Lake Mead National Recreation Area for a picnic or a hike. About 75 miles (an hour and a half) from Hoover Dam, you’ll reach Kingman, Arizona with its historic district that allows you to view sections of historic Route 66.
At Kingman, Interstate 40 is a popular route east to Williams, Arizona (113 miles or one and a half hours). Stop at the Williams Visitor Center to ask about the Grand Canyon Railway or to ask the friendly Forest Service staff about attractions and recreation opportunities on the Kaibab National Forest. The Kaibab is all around you as you head north from Williams to the Grand Canyon, and offers layers of opportunity for peace, solitude and discovery. This area includes four designated wilderness areas and numerous opportunities for hiking, hunting and fishing. The Kaibab also offers Ten-X Campground which is a good alternative to busy Mather campground, or try an overnight stay in historic Hull Cabin; it’s just steps from Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through the immensity of its depth, width, length, geology, history, and color, not to mention all the things there are to do. Where to start? First, make sure you allow enough time to experience the canyon, which deserves more than just a peek into it's depths! Then, visit the park's Things to Do page, reserve a campsite or lodging and enjoy your adventure!
A 1907 advertisement described Death Valley as “hell without the inconveniences.” Thousands of visitors make the expedition to Death Valley each year from the relative convenience of Las Vegas. Plan to start on Interstate 15, and then download "Routes from Las Vegas: Death Valley National Park" to choose among the shortest, easiest, most scenic or ghost town routes to Death Valley.
The shortest, easiest and ghost town routes from Las Vegas to Death Valley allow an easy side trip to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge that adds about 32 miles to the route. Ash Meadows offers 22,000 acres of wetlands, springs and springbrook channels among the sand dunes north of Pahrump, Nevada. This desert oasis is home to 300 bird species and 24 plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world including five endangered and six threatened species. Family-friendly visitor activities include birding or even viewing a bighorn sheep on the Points of Rock Boardwalk, walking to the caribbean blue (and warm) waters of Crystal Springs or taking a short stroll to gunslinger Jack Longstreet’s historic stone cabin. Ash Meadows is a little over 100 miles or about two hours from Las Vegas. Death Valley National Park is about 45 miles or about an hour beyond the refuge.
Death Valley National Park, two and a half hours or 145 miles from Las Vegas, is a place of extremes. It is home to the lowest and driest area in North America and holds the world’s record for hottest temperature. Don’t let the name fool you, however, the desolate basin and range landscape is full of life and activity. Death Valley offers many activities including spectacular photography, hiking, biking and camping. Advance reservations are available for Furnace Creek campground and Scotty’s Castle tours. Read our Spotlight article Death Valley National Park. A Desert Jewel for more ideas.
If you’re seeking the quiet, remote, clear-skied Great Basin National Park, drive north on US Highway 93 then east on Highway 50. Download the "Eastern Nevada Parks Travel Guide" to help plan your trip along this scenic and Loneliest Road in North America, a 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas.
After driving about 90 minutes north from the Strip en route to Great Basin National Park, take the opportunity to stop at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. This popular destination for photographers and birders also offers hiking and biking trails that cross through five different habitat types. Camping and picnicking are permitted along the east shoreline of Upper Pahranagat Lake, making this an oasis along scenic-but-otherwise-dry US Highway 93.
Between Pahranagat (or Las Vegas) and Great Basin National Park, we suggest you plan a couple stops along US Highway 93 (because there aren’t many!). The "Eastern Nevada Parks Travel Guide" (suggested above) lists interesting stops including Pioche, where you’ll see the 1872 Million Dollar Courthouse, or the town of Caliente, about halfway between Las Vegas and Great Basin. Don’t miss Caliente's historic train depot and the adjacent Boxcar Museum. Also in the Caliente area, a cluster of three state parks offer opportunities for photography, picnicking, camping or hiking among streams, slot canyons and dramatic spires. Big Rocks Wilderness Area offers opportunities for rock climbing in the boulder-strewn area known as “Mecca”.
Great Basin National Park may be the most remote national park outside of Alaska, and it is well worth the drive. You’ll notice the lack of crowds, and Great Basin’s distance from the lights of urban areas offers one of the best views of the Milky Way in the continental United States. Make sure to tour the Lehman Caves or drive along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive where you’ll find access to a number of hiking trails such as the Alpine Lakes, Osceola Ditch or popular Bristlecone Pine Trail. The Bristlecone Pine trail leads to the base of Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak and home of the last remaining glacier in Nevada. Great Basin is located 315 miles (about 6 hours) north of Las Vegas.
The drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles offers spectacular scenery and adventurous recreation along the Mojave Desert’s desolate back roads driving south on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas.
Ivanpah Dry Lake is the first attraction as you travel south on Interstate 15 across the California border. Ivanpah is world famous for land sailing, kite buggying and disc throwing. From Ivanpah Dry Lake, follow these directions to one of America’s best kept secrets, Mojave National Preserve. Joshua Trees are abundant at the higher elevations (with fewer as you decrease in elevation along this easy grade). Kelbaker Road traverses the preserve through an area of lava flows and volcanic cinder cones and also offers an interesting side trip to a lava tube. Download the Cinder Cones, Lava Flows and Lave Tube brochure for details. Be sure to stop at Kelso Depot Visitor Center to explore exhibits about the Preserve’s rich mining and Union Pacific Railroad history or eat at The Beanery, a vintage 1924 lunch counter. Not far from Kelso Depot, you'll also find the "singing" Kelso sand dunes.
Kelbaker Road will exit Mojave National Preserve at Interstate 40, but continue south on Kelbaker Road and then west on the National Trails Highway (Historic Route 66) for about 20 miles to reach Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark, a symmetrical volcanic cinder cone located between Barstow and Needles, California. It rises above a lava field and can’t be missed along this stretch of Historic US Route 66. Be among the many that stop to climb the extinct volcano up to the crater rim (allow 2 to 3 hours) and view the lava lake interior or have a picnic at the base. The best time to hike is during spring wildflower bloom in the early morning or late afternoon.
From Amboy Crater, swing through the ghost town of Amboy and look for the iconic Roy’s Motel and Café. You may recognize Roy’s from its appearance in Hollywood movies. It’s about another hour (55 miles) to Twentynine Palms, California and Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park is named for the unusual “Dr. Seussian” trees found throughout its rocky landscape. The park is also a world-famous destination for rock climbing and bouldering (with 8,000 routes to choose from) as well as hiking and mountain biking. Stay awhile to enjoy the desert sunsets and hear the coyotes howl at night—camping reservations are available. Joshua Tree is 180 miles (about 4 hours) from Las Vegas.