Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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I recently got back from a girls’ weekend getaway trip to Las Vegas that was filled with the quintessential pool parties, nightclubs, and wandering around The Strip with a drink in hand at all times. It was lots of fun, but deep down, I’m an outdoorsy traveler who couldn’t wait to get back to my passions of hiking and spending time out in nature. Next time I head to Vegas (for my own sanity and budget!), I plan to incorporate a bit more balance into my trip by doing a side trip to a nearby park!
Here are the best national parks near Las Vegas that you might be interested in checking out too on an extended trip. All of these parks are within eight hours’ driving distance of Las Vegas and listed in order of closest to farthest away.
Death Valley National Park is just two hours from Las Vegas and the closest national park to the city. It is a place of extremes, with striking contrasts and diverse landscapes that make you feel like you’re on another planet. This is a place where you can hike on salt flats, across sand dunes, and among desert peaks. There are both primitive and full-hookup camping sites, plus backpacking adventures available for experienced campers. Other things to do here include mountain and road biking, gazing up at the dark night skies, taking a guided tour, and driving around to the major sightseeing spots. The fee to visit the park in a private vehicle is $30.
Just a bit further away is Zion National Park in Utah. It is about 2.5 hours from Vegas and a very popular park among tourists, so be prepared for crowds unless you visit during the off-season. There is a seasonal shuttle system at Zion to help with the flow of traffic. Although most areas of the park do not require a permit, you will need to apply for the lottery to hike Angel’s Landing. Canyoneering, backpacking, rock climbing, and river trips are popular activities otherwise. There are three campgrounds in the park if you want to stay overnight. The fee to enter with a private vehicle is $35.
In just over three hours from Las Vegas, you can reach Joshua Tree National Park for a dose of nature. This is where two desert ecosystems come together in a place filled with dark night skies and vast wilderness. Hiking is an ideal way to see the park, but start hiking before 9 am if you visit in the summer due to the extreme heat. There are hikes for people of all skill levels here and also opportunities for rock climbing, bouldering, highlining, and slacklining. You’ll find approximately 500 campsites in the park, most of which can be reserved in advance. The private vehicle entrance fee is $30.
The drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park will take you just over four hours. This northern Arizona park spans 278 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent lands. It is the ancestral homeland of multiple native groups and offers a free shuttle service on the South Rim during peak season. You can visit either the North Rim or South Rim, depending on the season. Lodging is available at the park but typically books up early. The private vehicle entry fee is $35.
In just over four hours, you can also drive from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. This impressive park features hoodoos and other rock formations that are unlike anywhere else on Earth. It is a place of geological wonder and that also offers a free shuttle to avoid overcrowded parking areas. Come here to go hiking, take scenic drives, bike the shared-use path, go horseback riding, and camp at either the North Campground or Sunset Campground. The private vehicle entry fee is $35.
Located 4.5 hours from Las Vegas, Great Basin National Park is located in east-central Nevada just past the Utah border. It is a diverse park that is home to the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak and the Lehman Cave, which offers tours to see the stalactites and stalagmites. There are astronomy programs at this park to admire the lovely, dark skies at night. Other things to do at Great Basin include hiking the dozens of miles of trails to lakes and pine trees, fishing responsibly, and joining a ranger program. You can set up camp at Wheeler Peak Campground for an overnight stay. It is free to visit Great Basin National Park, but there are fees for cave tours and camping.
In just over five hours, you can reach Petrified Forest National Park from Las Vegas. This unique park is in Arizona and stretches between Interstate 40 and Highway 180, making it a convenient stop along the way of your road trip. This is a nice place to take a drive while stopping at the overlooks, walk the short trails, and explore the backcountry if you have more time. This is one of the rare pet-friendly national parks and a great place to bring your dog, with even a BARK Ranger program offered. The private vehicle entry fee is $25.
The south-central Utah destination of Capitol Reef National Park is just 5.5 hours from Las Vegas. It is in the heart of red rock country and extends approximately 100 miles, with plenty of canyons, cliffs, and other geological features to admire. Spring and fall are the busiest seasons to visit. You can stay overnight in the park at the developed campground, two primitive campgrounds, or in the vast backcountry area. Hiking, horseback riding, and rock climbing are popular here, and the private vehicle entry fee is $20.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are national parks just over six hours away from Las Vegas and in California. Your $35 private vehicle entrance fee gets you into both neighboring parks. This is a land of giant trees that tower over you and make you feel oh-so-small while out among landscapes that feel so different than the desert around Las Vegas. Go for a day hike to experience the sequoia groves up close, and climb Moro Rock for amazing views of the mountains and wilderness. Camping is available by reservation and is limited during the summer; however, overnight backpacking will let you experience the solitude and natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada region.
With over 2,000 natural stone arches and inspiring red rock landscapes, Arches National Park is worth the nearly seven-hour drive from Las Vegas. This geological wonderland has implemented a timed ticket entry system between April and October due to high crowds. Some of the most popular sights to see are Balanced Rock, the Windows Section, Delicate Arch, and Devil’s Garden. Canyoneering, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and driving tours are popular in the park. Camping is available at the Devil’s Garden Campground between March and October. The private vehicle entry fee at Arches is $30.
It might surprise you to learn that the epic Yosemite National Park is only about seven hours away from Las Vegas. This famous park spans nearly 1,200 square miles and features giant sequoias, a vast wilderness, large meadows, and deep valleys. It is a place people often visit to see the waterfalls, especially during the spring season. You need to apply for a permit for some park experiences, such as hiking to the top of Half Dome and doing an overnight hike. Camping and lodging are available for overnight stays, while the park offers over 750 miles of hiking trails to explore and year-round guided tours. The fee to enter Yosemite National Park in a private vehicle is $35.
In about seven hours, you can drive from Vegas and into Utah to reach Canyonlands National Park. This red rock park is divided into four districts known as The Needles, The Maze, Islands in the Sky, and the rivers. The park spans 337,598 acres of rugged land, and there are no roads that directly link the districts together. It’s usually best to visit just one area in a single trip if you are pressed for time. In addition to the hundreds of miles of hiking trails, you can also learn about native people who once called these lands their home during your trip. The private vehicle entrance fee is $30.