TRIPS FROM LAS VEGAS — The first time I visited Vegas I was 28 years old, on a work trip. Everyone always thought this was so strange: “Aren’t you a world traveler? But you’ve NEVER been to VEGAS?!” they would cry. I never imagined that Vegas would be for me and assumed I’d end up there eventually for some work trip, bachelorette party or my own wedding (kidding, mom!). So I didn’t prioritize planning a trip there.
My work trip, unfortunately, didn’t offer much more than a glimpse of the Vegas life. More like, an in-depth, behind-the-scenes adventure in the Sands Expo & Convention Center. But what I realized based on all the brochures available in my hotel room is that while Vegas itself might not be super appealing, it’s pretty damn close to some amazing sh*t.
That’s right, Vegas is smack dab in the middle of some of the coolest places in the US. And let’s not forget that it’s usually *really* cheap to fly there from pretty much every major American city — like, oddly cheap. So without further ado, I’m sharing two of my favorite quick trips from Las Vegas.
Weekend Trips from Las Vegas: Zion National Park in Utah
Just a 3-hour drive away, Zion National Park is one of the most easily accessible weekend trips from Las Vegas.
And once you arrive in the park, things are pretty seamless. Unless you’re planning any major backcountry endeavors, seeing the “top hits” in a day is totally doable.
Cars aren’t allowed, so you’ll have to park outside and take a shuttle. The shuttles are free, and depart regularly from the Visitor Center with stops at all the major trails and sights. This means less traffic and more exploring!
Hikes in Zion National Park
There are many options for hiking, from a paved, wheel-chair accessible path to the infamously terrifying Angels Landing.
One of the most popular hikes in the park is The Narrows, a narrow gorge where you walk through a river with walls a thousand feet high beside you (12-14 hours to hike the whole thing).
Another is the Emerald Pools, featuring three levels of natural pools, complete with waterfalls and epic views of Zion Canyon (2-4 hours to hike, perfect for a day tripper).
Where to Stay Near Zion
There’s a hotel and camping right in the park. But if you’re trying to get a last-minute reservation or save some money, you’re better off staying outside of town.
I stayed in nearby Washington, Utah at the Canyon Villas at Coral Ridge. The villa was on the way from Vegas to Zion, making it the ideal stop for the night before exploring the park. It was very spacious, including a modern kitchen and patio overlooking a golf course.
While it was still a bit of a drive to the park, that was half the fun. Utah has some amazing landscapes, so you’ll want to drive around! Plus, the villa was less than $200 per night, split among four of us. Much cheaper than two hotel rooms.
Day Trips from Las Vegas: Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada
If you have less than 24 hours for an outdoor adventure, Valley of Fire State Park is one of my favorite day trips from Las Vegas. It’s slightly under an hour’s drive, but you’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet once you arrive and pay the $10 entrance fee.
And since Valley of Fire is way less crowded than a national park like Zion, you can drive yourself around exploring.
Things to See & Do in Valley of Fire State Park
The otherworldly landscapes — 40,000 acres of bright red rock — are seriously so cool.
Immediately after entering the park, we came across the Seven Sisters, a landmark featuring seven very tall, unique red boulders.
But the best way to explore Valley of Fire is on your own two feet.
We didn’t really plan any formal hikes since we spontaneously stopped there on the way from Zion. We just popped out of the car here and there when we saw an interesting sign and wandered off.
We came upon some very cool rock formations, arches and canyons. We also had the chance to see ancient Native American petroglyphys.
However, if I went again, I’d reference Leave No Tracy’s list of incredible-sounding Valley of Fire hikes! It sounds like she was able to find quite a few that were completely empty of other hikers, which is always the dream.
More Inspiration for Trips from Las Vegas
I will admit, the one night we did spend on the Vegas strip was really fun. How could you not have fun drinking frozen margaritas at a pool party at Caesar’s Palace (while dropping lines from The Hangover the entire time), hitting up comedy shows and getting to-go drinks from The Rainforest Cafe?
I’ll definitely be back, but it’s likely that next time, you’ll find me exploring more day and/or weekend trips from Last Vegas. In no particular order, others to check out include:
- The Grand Canyon (4.5 hours)
- Death Valley National Park (2.5 hours)
- Red Rock Canyon (20 minutes!)
- Bryce Canyon (4 hours)
- Lake Mead (40 minutes)
- Great Basin National Park (4.5 hours)