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Las Vegas deserves its reputation as one of the wildest places around, but true wilderness is just down the highway. Once you get your fill of the wild life, try your luck at the many national parks near Las Vegas.
It’s tempting to never leave the world-famous Las Vegas Strip because it seems like it has it all.
But you’re already in the gorgeous southwest, so leave those glittering lights behind and get back to nature. Set your sights instead on some of the nation’s best national parks.
You can explore mountains and deserts and spectacularly colored river canyons that have evolved for millions of years. Stick around after sunset for pitch-black skies that are tailor-made for extreme star-gazing.
Who’s game for a post-party road trip? Let’s go!
Where Is Las Vegas?
Sometimes called the Entertainment Capital of the World, the desert city of Las Vegas is in southern Nevada. With a population of around 650,000, it’s by far the largest metro area in the Mojave Desert.
Las Vegas is about 270 miles northeast of Los Angeles and about 300 miles northwest of Phoenix. Another major entertainment destination in Nevada, Reno, is about 440 miles from Sacramento.
What Is Las Vegas Known For?
Most people associate Las Vegas with gambling casinos, which first became legal in 1931. But these days, that’s just part of its amazing story of transformation.
Casinos are still a main draw, but so are shopping, fine dining, live performances, and sporting events.
This sparkling desert oasis is also a place where people go to shed their inhibitions and let it all hang out – so to speak. This attitude inspired the well-known marketing slogan “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”
7 National Parks Near Las Vegas
Are you packed and ready to hit the road? These seven magnificent national parks are all within a few hours’ drive of the ritzy strip of casinos, hotels, and restaurants.
1. Death Valley National Park
Talk about wide-open spaces! At 3.4 million acres, this is the largest national park outside of Alaska.
Location: In the northern Mojave Desert, straddling the Nevada-California line.
Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest locations on Earth, but it’s also a place of contrasting extremes. Besides its sun-scorched rocks and dunes, it has areas with lush vegetation and lots of wildlife.
Best Hikes: Get a feel for one of the park’s unique ecosystems with a half-mile loop through the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. More serious explorers will enjoy the cross-country trek along the Desolation Canyon Trail, which is 3.6 miles out and back. For a leisurely sunset troll, there’s no greater mountaintop perspective than the one from Dante’s View.
Distance From Las Vegas: Two hours or 135 miles
2. Zion National Park
Utah’s first national park’s most distinguishing feature is its steep sandstone cliffs with their rich red hues.
Location: Near the Nevada and Arizona boundaries in southwestern Utah.
Zion National Park is small by some standards, covering just 230 square miles, but it has some spellbinding features. The looming cliffs get most of the attention, but don’t overlook the river trails leading to the enchanting Emerald Pools. Take the shuttle bus for a relaxed tour of sights along the Scenic Drive.
Best Hikes: The Riverside Walk, also called the Gateway to the Narrows, offers a slot canyon view that’s nothing short of amazing. This dog-friendly hike is an easy and pleasant 2.2-mile round trip. The popular Canyon Overlook Trail is even shorter, but you can avoid the crowds and get more steps in on the eight-mile Chinle Trail.
Distance From Las Vegas: Two hours and 30 minutes or 160 miles
3. Joshua Tree National Park
This is where you’ll find those weird trees that look like something straight from Dr. Seuss’ imagination.
Location: Just east of Palm Springs in southern California.
Dominating the desert landscape of this 800,000-acre park are its unusual trees with their delightfully twisted branches.
You can also visit galleries, museums, and farmer’s markets along with what’s left of historic gold mines. Enthusiastic and dedicated stargazers also give the park a lively nocturnal scene.
Best Hikes: The Hidden Valley Trail is just a mile long and showcases the namesake trees. You’ll also see places where legend says cattle rustlers used to hide their loot. Lost Horse Mine Trail shows off other historic relics, and Mastodon Peak Hike has the panoramic wow factor.
Distance From Las Vegas: Three hours or 185 miles
4. Grand Canyon National Park
This breathtakingly immense landmark is so vast that it touches parts of four states, including Nevada.
Location: Mostly in northern Arizona, but also spanning parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
If you’ve never seen it in person, the massive size and beauty may leave you speechless.
Formed over eons by the Colorado River, the canyon encompasses over 1,900 square miles and is over a mile deep in places. While the South Rim, in Arizona, is the most popular vantage point, many others favor visiting the West Rim. It’s even closer to Vegas!
Best Hikes: The Bright Angel Trail, which leads to Plateau Point, is incredibly popular but also ambitious at around 12 miles. Another cherished route is the South Kaibab Trail, which starts at a legendary limestone formation called “the Chimney.”
Distance From Las Vegas: Three hours 30 minutes or 225 miles
Keep in Mind: Have You Visited This Secret Little Grand Canyon in Georgia? If not, you need to add it to your bucket list!
5. Bryce Canyon National Park
Do you know what a “hoodoo” is? You appreciate their beauty after your visit here.
Location: East of Zion National Park in southwestern Utah
Technically, Bryce isn’t a canyon but more like a series of natural amphitheaters. The central figures here are the tall, thin rock structures called hoodoos.
There are countless numbers of columnar spires spread out over nearly 36,000 acres. One of the most prominent and picturesque has the threatening name of Thor’s Hammer.
Best Hikes: The Sheep Creek-Swamp Canyon Loop and Navajo Loop are two moderate, meandering hikes that pass through these towering spires. A more hidden gem is the 7.8-mile Fairyland Loop through the more remote northern part of the park.
Distance From Las Vegas: Three hours and 45 minutes or 260 miles
6. Great Basin National Park
What stands out here are a dramatic change in elevation and an unusual diversity of plants and animals.
Location: In east-central Nevada, close to the Utah line.
Great Basin is famous for the jaw-dropping uphill climb on the Scenic Drive leading up to Wheeler Peak. You’ll rise well over a mile in just a 12-mile stretch.
You can also see amazing rock formations that are the work of glaciers and remarkable desert landscapes. The oddball living features include 10 different kinds of cave-dwelling bats and ancient pine trees called bristlecones.
Best Hikes: Don’t skip the Alpine Lakes Loop. It’s just 2.7 miles, and you can view two pristine mountain lakes with Wheeler Peak as an imposing backdrop. Continue on to the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail for another 3 miles, revealing more of the park’s star attractions. For wildlife viewing, the Osceola Ditch Interpretive Trail may be your best bet.
Distance From Las Vegas: Four hours and 30 minutes or 300 miles
7. Capitol Reef National Park
One of four national parks in Utah, Capitol Reef has over 60 miles of stunning red-rock cliffs and canyons.
Location: West of Canyonlands National Park in south-central Utah.
No, we’re not suggesting a quick trip to Washington, D.C., or even Salt Lake City.
The Capitol, in this case, refers to the distinctively dome-shaped peaks with a unique origin story. They are part of the Waterpocket Fold, which geologists describe as a wrinkle on our planet’s crust. The Navajos had a more poetic name. Inspired by its vibrant palette, they called the sandstone reef “Sleeping Rainbow.”
Best Hikes: The mile-long Capitol Gorge Hike is an easy entry point, and the Hickman Bridge Trail offers a look at an impressive natural arch. A few longer hikes let you squeeze through narrow slot canyons like Burro Wash and Sheets Gulch.
Distance From Las Vegas: Five hours or 335 miles
Keep in Mind: Looking to rent an RV in Vegas? These Are the Best RV Rentals in the city!
When Is the Best Time to Visit National Parks Near Las Vegas?
When planning your trip to Las Vegas, you need to think beyond the air-conditioned casinos, resorts, and restaurants. But always keep in mind that this is the desert.
Daytime highs in the summer in this part of the country can be unbearable at times – and downright dangerous. Winters can be harsh, too, in places with high elevation.
So you’ll want to avoid the stifling summers. We suggest spring and fall as the best times to visit these spectacular national parks near Las Vegas.
How Many National Parks Are in Nevada?
You may have noticed that most of our recommended stops, our favorite national parks near Las Vegas, are actually outside Nevada. That’s because Nevada has just two national parks.
One of them is Death Valley, of course, but most of that sprawling park actually lies across the state line in California. Great Basin National Park is the only one that’s located completely within the state of Nevada.
The others on our list are in the neighboring states of California, Utah, and Arizona. They’re still relatively close to Las Vegas, however, and the drives to and from them are incredibly scenic.
Not Just Casinos and Nightlife, Check Out the National Parks Near Las Vegas
There’s so much to do in Vegas that you may never want to leave – but you’d be missing out.
Some of your recollections of Las Vegas may be foggy, and that’s completely understandable.
But once the party’s over, you can make unforgettable memories at the different national parks near Las Vegas. In fact, you can take a drive in practically any direction and experience many of the region’s natural treasures first-hand.
Maybe it’s true that what happens in Vegas stays there, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Expand your visit to the entertainment capital of the world by venturing out and enjoying the natural world around it.