There’s more to Las Vegas than slot machines, buffet lines, and imitation Elvis concerts. Beyond the Strip lays an abundance of natural landscapes – from rolling sand dunes and flowing rivers to snow-peaked mountains and colorful rugged canyons – just waiting to be explored. National Parks near Las Vegas are often overlooked when planning a trip.
While Las Vegas is considered by many to be the entertainment capital of the world, this also applies to the spectacular national parks and outdoor activities situated just outside the city limits.
If you’re planning a Vegas weekend getaway or vacation to Vegas, then it’s worth adding a few extra days to your trip to check out the National Parks near Vegas. Many of these places are within driving distance from Vegas, which means you won’t have to go far to experience the beauty of Mother Nature. Say goodbye to the casinos and hello to a world of jaw-dropping landscapes!
*Money Saving Tip* Consider purchasing the Annual Pass “America The Beautiful” which includes admission to the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands in the USA. The pass is $80 and valid for an entire year from when it is purchased, click here for more details. You can purchase online and they’ll ship you the pass or you can purchase in person at any of the National Parks near Las Vegas.
1. Death Valley National Park
- Drive Time: 2 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 125 miles
When it comes to clocking in world records, there’s really no place like Death Valley National Park in California. Not only is it home to the hottest temperature ever recorded (a staggering 137 degrees Fahrenheit), but it’s also the driest place in North America. That becomes clear once you see the never-ending rows of orange sand dunes and dried-up salt flats of this drought-like park.
Despite its name, Death Valley is also home to a diverse variety of natural landscapes. In addition to the desert plains, you’ll also find waterfalls, mountains, and even the Badwater Basin – the lowest point in the entire country. As the closest national park to the Strip, Death Valley makes for an easy day trip from Vegas.
2. Zion National Park
- Drive Time: 2.5 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 160 miles
Zion National Park is one of the best national parks near Vegas for adventure lovers. Marked by steep red canyons, tree-lined forests, and crystal-clear rivers, Zion has a unique geography considering its close proximity to the desert. Towering over the park is the 8,726-foot Horse Ranch Mountain, although there are plenty of other summits to admire, including Tucupit Point and Timber Top Mountain.
Due to the number of mountains in the area, many people come to this park to go hiking and rock climbing. Head to the Zion Canyon to find the most popular trails, including the 3.5-mile Pa’rus Trail or the 7.6-mile Sandbench Trail. If time is limited, there are also a few hikes that won’t take up much of your time, including the one-mile Grotto Trail (great for wildlife viewing) or the 1.2-mile Lower Emerald Pool Trail (beautiful views of pools and waterfalls).
3. Grand Canyon National Park
- Drive Time: 4.5 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 275 miles
As one of the most famous national parks in the world, the Grand Canyon is a must-see for any adventure lover. It’s visited by over six million people each year and boasts numerous activities for every type of traveler, including hiking, rafting, horseback riding, and helicopter tours. It’s also one of the few parks which you can visit year-round, which makes it a great weekend trip if you’re visiting Las Vegas.
There are several entrances to the Grand Canyon National Park, the West Rim being the closest to Las Vegas. Here you’ll find the famous glass skybridge walkway. Although it’s a bit further away, the South Rim is also worth visiting for the picturesque canyon views and abundance of restaurants, resorts, and museums. 90% of all Grand Canyon visitors enter through the South Rim.
The North Rim is only open during Summer and Fall, which means it’s relatively less busy than other parts of the park. Here, you’ll find some great hiking trails, including the Bright Angel Point Trail and the Transept Trail. The East Rim is the home of the Little Colorado River, as well as the stunning Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.
4. Joshua Tree National Park
- Drive Time: 3.5 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 215 miles
Hop over the border into California to visit one of the coolest national parks in the country – Joshua Tree! Situated between the Colorado and Mojave Deserts outside of Palm Springs, this park is known for its sprawling desert environment, massive smooth boulders, and fields of pokey Joshua Trees (after which the park was named). It’s possible to drive from one entrance to the other in just a few hours, although it’s recommended to spend a few hours exploring all the noteworthy sites situated inside the park.
Stop by the Cholla Cactus Garden to see different types of prickly foliage native to the desert. Or trek up to Keys View during sunset for a breath-taking view of the Coachella Valley. If you’re an avid rock climber, then head to Jumbo Rocks Campground, where you’ll be able to scale up the giant boulders for fantastic views of the surrounding area.
As the drive to Joshua Tree National Park is 3.5 hours from Vegas, you can also choose to spend the night in one of the campgrounds. Park your RV or pitch your tent and enjoy the serene setting of one of California’s most spectacular national parks.
5. Bryce Canyon National Park
- Drive Time: 4 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 260 miles
One visit to Bryce Canyon, and you’ll see why it’s one of the most unique national parks in the country. Scattered along the basin of a small valley stands thousands of red and orange rock spires known as hoodoos. These towering fairy chimney formations get their bizarre appearance as a result of wind and rain erosion.
Although you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of the hoodoos from the rim (the scenic drive around the park has 13 stops and viewpoints), it’s also possible to hike to the lower basin to see them up close. Some of the most popular hikes include the five-hour moderate Rim Trail or the 23 miles overnight Under the Rim Trail. Bryce Canyon is located east of Zion National Park, and a visit to both destinations is entirely feasible on the same trip.
6. Great Basin National Park
- Drive Time: 4.5 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 300 miles
You don’t have to leave the state lines of Nevada in order to find amazing natural landscapes! Great Basin National Park is Nevada’s only national park, although it happens to be located on the other side of the state from Las Vegas (so you’ll likely want to spend the night). Here, you’ll find a plethora of sights and attractions, including dark caves, pine forests, and rolling hills and valleys. There’s even a snow-capped mountain, Wheeler Peak, which rises over 13,000 feet above sea level. At the base of the mountain lies the Wheeler Peak Glacier, the southernmost glacier in the entire Northern Hemisphere.
With 12 different hiking trails and paths, Great Basin National Park has something for every skill level. Inexperienced hikers and families will enjoy the leisurely Mountain View Nature Trail, a short and flat walk that meanders through groves of juniper, pinyon, and pine trees. More adventurous trekkers can attempt the Wheeler Peak Trail, an 8.2-mile hike up 3,000 feet along the side of the namesake mountain.
7. Capitol Reef National Park
Drive Time: 5 hours
Distance from Las Vegas: 327 miles
Located in South Central Utah, Capitol Reef is ripped right from the pages of a Wild West novel, with reddish-brown canyons, limestone rock formations, and sprawling sand dunes. Despite being overlooked for its larger and more popular neighbors like Bryce Canyon and Zion, Capitol Reef National Park is still a worthwhile stop from Las Vegas if you’re looking for spectacular landscapes.
If time is limited, you can drive along the scenic Highway 24, a twisting, turning road that takes you through grassy meadows and past the massive sandstone dunes and domes. Don’t forget to make the stop at Panorama Point, where you’ll be treated to dramatic views over the canyons and valleys. Highway 24 also takes you to the petroglyph rocks with figures and paintings that date back to 600-1300 AD.
8. Petrified Forest National Park
- Drive Time: 5 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 365 miles
Although it’s not the largest park on this list, Petrified Forest National Park is a spectacular place with an impressive history dating back over 200 million years. This archeological site has ancient fossils, historic dwellings and houses, and colorful forests of petrified wood. These ancient logs and trees are filled with quartz crystals and minerals, which contributes to their dazzling appearance.
Archeologists have discovered nine types of extinct fossil trees in the park, as well as bones from giant crocodiles, large amphibians, and even dinosaurs. The modern-day creatures that roam the park are almost as impressive as the ones that wander thousands of years before. You’ll find coyotes, bobcats, foxes, prairie dogs, and more than 16 different types of lizards.
During your visit, you can also stop by the visitors’ center or Rainbow Forest Museum where you can learn more about the history and fossils that are contained in the park. Hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and geocaching are also all possible.
9. Sequoia National Park
- Drive Time: 6 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 380 miles
Coving over 4,000 acres of Eastern California is the Sequoia National Park. The park is named after the abundance of Giant Sequoia groves that cover the peaks and valleys. These trees are truly a sight to behold, many of which tower over 200-feet tall. You can see many of these trees in the Giant Forest which is home to five out of the ten largest trees on the planet, including the legendary General Sherman tree. At 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter, General Sherman is the largest living tree in the entire world.
However, the monstrous sequoias trees are just a few of the many things you can see in the Sequoia National Forest during your visit. You can trek up 390 steps to the top of the granite domed Moro Rock, drive through the middle of a tree at Tunnel Log, or admire the cascading rumble of Grizzly Falls.
Sequoia National Park also has numerous hiking trails that will get you up close and personal to the giant trees. The Hazelwood Nature Trail is an easy, informative loop that tells you about the history of the park, while the Congress Trail is a two-mile walk along the Giant Forest and General Sherman Tree.
More advanced hikers might opt for a full-day trek along the Alta Peak Trail, which leads up 11,000 feet to the summit of Alta Peak. Anyone who accomplishes this strenuous hike will be rewarded with fantastic views over the Great Western Divide and Mt. Whitney.
10. Yosemite National Park
- Drive Time: 7 hours
- Distance from Las Vegas: 455 miles
You can’t mention West Coast national parks without mentioning Yosemite. This national park is nestled on the western edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California and is famous for its diverse scenery of mountainous cliffs, cascading waterfalls, sparkling lakes, and wooded forests. As a result, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, and skiing are just a few outdoor activities that remain incredibly popular for tourists.
Although it’s impossible to tick off every sight during your visit, there are a few must-see attractions that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Yosemite National Park. In the center of the park are Half Dome and El Capitan, rock formations that are arguably two of the most iconic landmarks of the park. You can also visit the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in all of North America. If you’d prefer to spend the day hiking, you’ll have over 800 miles of trails to choose from, including the world-renown trek up to the summit of Half Dome.
Yosemite is open all year, which means there is still plenty to do if you happen to visit during winter. Head to Badger Pass, which is the oldest downhill ski slope in California. From December to April, you’ll be able to go skiing, cross-country skiing, and even snowshoeing along the slopes of the mountains.
What is are favorite National Parks near Vegas? We’d love to hear from you!