Las Vegas has so much to offer that you could spend your entire trip exploring the city and still not come closing to seeing and doing it all. In fact, there’s so much going on you may want a break. These seven cheap day trips can help you recharge without breaking the bank.
Red Rock Canyon
Just 40 minutes west of the city, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 195,819 acres of red and buff rock formations populated by wild burros. Drive the 13-mile scenic drive, bike the paved roads (if you have your bike with you), or hike one of 26 different trails. There are also designated mountain bike trails. Before you go, stop at the visitor center to see the desert tortoise habitats. The entrance fee is $7 per vehicle.
Spring Mountain State Park
A historical working ranch owned by German actress Vera Krupp and later Howard Hughes, Spring Mountain State Park boasts some of the oldest buildings in the state, including a 1860s blacksmith shop and ranch house. Take a ranger-led tour, then hike its easy to moderate trails. The park, located adjacent to Red Rock Canyon, offers live history programs in the fall and spring, theater during the summer, and programs throughout the year. Admission is $9 per vehicle.
Less than an hour from downtown, Mount Charleston offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. If you’re a hiker, there are 52 miles of trails through pine forests and up to alpine vistas. You can also take the scenic drive up Kyle Canyon, across Deer Creek Highway, and down Lee Canyon. During the winter, drive to the snow to sled, build snowmen, or ski at Lee Canyon Ski & Snowboard Resort. It's free to visit and hike.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Straddling the Arizona-Nevada border, this recreational area includes Lake Mead (the largest reservoir in the country), Hoover Dam, and a large chunk of Mojave Desert. Many activities are pricey—renting a boat costs roughly $100 per hour, boat tours start at $30 per person, and the 1-hour Hoover Dam tour costs $30 per person—but there are plenty of inexpensive activities, too.
You can fish with a license (as long as you have bait and tackle), picnic overlooking the lake, or hike to the Hoover Dam or local hot springs. Lake Mead is about a 40-minute drive south from Las Vegas and requires a $20-per-vehicle entrance fee.
Valley of Fire
If you’re willing to venture a little further out (less than two hours), head northeast to Valley of Fire. The state park has ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years plus 40,000 acres of bright red, tan, and gray sandstone from the Jurassic period. You can explore the park by car, but hiking is the best way to see the unique landscape. Valley of Fire is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle.
The hottest, driest, and lowest national park, Death Valley is also the largest national park outside of Alaska and just a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas. Once you get there, you can explore its 3.4 million acres driving the park’s 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads or hike November through March (the rest of the year is too hot). Admission is $25 per vehicle.
Note: Scotty’s Castle, the castle-like Spanish Colonial home inside the park, remains closed after flooding except on Saturdays when small group tours are available. Reservations are required.
Zion National Park
You may not have as much time as you’d like there, but visiting Zion National Park from Las Vegas is doable if you don’t mind the 3-hour drive to get there. Parking is limited, so your best bet is to park in Springdale and take the local shuttle to the visitor center, where you can board the park shuttle. In the canyon, several shorter hikes allow you to experience its grandeur and have time to get back to your car for the 3-hour drive back to Vegas. Admission is $30 per vehicle.