Las Vegas might be famous for its gambling and nightlife but the Sin City is also the perfect outdoor destination for nature lovers.
There are several amazing national parks near Las Vegas including Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Death Valley National Park.
Las Vegas makes the perfect base for planning a road trip around the American Southwest.
Whether you want to see the popular national parks or explore underrated attractions such as White Sands National Park and Four Corners Monument, Las Vegas is the perfect starting point.
Here’s an epic list of bucket list worthy national and state parks, national forests, stunning national recreation areas near Las Vegas to visit this summer.
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Here are the best national parks near Las Vegas to plan your next road trip.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park, located on the California Nevada border, has stark desert beauty and rich history.
This national park is the closest national park near Las Vegas and a perfect day trip away from Sin City.
Death Valley is also the largest national park in the lower 48 states.
Death Valley has an extreme environment: it is the hottest and driest place in North America.
The park is famous for its unique landscapes including the Badwater Basin, colorful Artists Palette drive, and the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes.
Learn about the mining operations at the Harmony Borax Works Trail, see the iconic salt flats, and spot the desert wildlife including the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, jackrabbits, and a variety of reptiles.
In spring the park blooms with the wildflowers and is incredibly beautiful to visit.
Death Valley is also an international dark sky park and a favorite for stargazing.
Best Place to Stay – Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel
Zion National Park, Utah
Looking for an incredible oasis in the middle of the Southern Utah desert? Head to Zion!
Zion National Park is, without a doubt, one of the most popular national parks to visit around Las Vegas.
Zion National Park is known for its wonderful hikes, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife.
The famous Narrows Trail through the Virgin River and the vivid colors of the red sandstone canyon are what make Zion National Park stand out from the other national parks in America.
The Zion Narrows Trail takes you along the bed of the Virgin River to the narrowest and most colorful sections of the canyon.
Most of the time, you’ll be hiking in knee-deep water with tall sandstone walls closing in on you.
The Narrows is a truly unique experience.
Angel’s Landing is the most famous hike in Zion National Park and also the most crowded one.
This trail has many switchbacks and requires hikers to scramble over rocks.
In the final climb, you’ll be hiking along a narrow ridge perched high above the valley.
The trail passes too close to cliff edges however there are railings and chains in this challenging stretch to hold onto.
From the top of Angel’s Landing, you’ll get an incredible 360-degree panoramic view of all of Zion National Park.
Zion also has many great hikes that are popular with visitors including Observation Point trail, Emerald Pool trail, and more.
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Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park, located just over 3 hours from Las Vegas, is one of the most unique California national parks.
It is known for its bare rock formations, stark landscapes, and the iconic Joshua Tree.
Joshua Tree draws nature lovers from around the world to its desert habitats.
The park can be easily visited on a road trip from Las Vegas.
There are many things to do in Joshua Tree for visitors.
You can go on a hike to see the rugged rock formations or the palm oases that grow in the desert.
Visitors also like to look at the twisting Joshua trees up close and photograph them in the backdrop of the bare desert.
The Cholla Cactus Garden and Ocotillo patches are also popular for their unique flora and fauna.
Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is an easy 1.5-mile track where you can spot wildlife at the namesake dam and see pictograms.
For something a little more challenging, try climbing Ryan Mountain.
This Joshua Tree National Park hike can take up to 3 hours but the views from the top are worthwhile.
Alternatively, drive to the panorama lookout at Keys View.
At 5185 feet tall, you’ll be spoiled by views of the Indio Hills, Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and even Signal Mountain in Mexico from the top of Keys View.
You can also clearly see the San Andreas faultline from the viewpoint in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park also has a dark night sky and camping in the park is amazing.
One of the best campsites to stay in Joshua Tree National Park is the Indian Cove Campground.
The campsites are located next to the boulders and Joshua trees and have great views of the desert.
Best Place to Stay – Indian Cove Campsite
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Grand Canyon National park, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited national parks near Las Vegas.
This natural wonder is on the bucket list of many visitors to the United States and the first one that comes to mind when you think of national parks close to Vegas.
The vast and deep canyon with its multitude of rock layers, geological formations, and hiking trails has been fascinating explorers for centuries.
The Grand Canyon National Park occupies a vast area – roughly about 1902 sq miles – and can be reached via two different entrances: the north rim and the south rim.
The south rim is located 252 miles away and can be reached by a 4.5 hrs drive.
Many viewpoints located along the south rim offer iconic views of the vast canyon carved by the Colorado River.
Visitors can find a variety of amenities at the Grand Canyon Village including dining, lodging, camping, museums, and visitor centers.
Also Read: Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
Grand Canyon Northern Rim is located about 268 miles from Las Vegas, so approximately a 5-hour drive one-way.
The north rim is visited by fewer people and looks significantly different than the south rim.
It has fewer amenities than the south rim and is inaccessible during winter.
Visitors can experience the true ruggedness of the canyon at the north rim and it is a favorite with advanced hikers.
Best Place to Stay – Bright Angel Lodge, South Rim or Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim
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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Located in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a great place to visit from Las Vegas.
It is located just 4 hours away and is a fairy tale landscape of vivid red hoodoo rock formations.
These spire-shaped rocks were formed due to years and years of weathering due to wind, water, and snow.
The red sandstone looks even more vivid and bright crimson at sunrise and sunset making this the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.
One of the top places to visit inside the National Park is Bryce amphitheater.
This vast depression is filled with hoodoos and is the best place to see their expanse.
You can hike along the Rim Trail to see the rock formations from above or hike down into the amphitheater to see the hoodoos up close from below.
Hike along the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queen’s Garden Trail to see the most interesting rock formations.
During the winter Bryce Canyon National Park may be covered with snow, making late spring to fall the best time to visit the park.
Visitors can also drive along Highway 12 which is the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive to explore the National Park.
Many trailheads and 13 scenic overlooks are located along the 38-mile long drive.
Some of the best overlooks include Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point.
Best Place to Stay – Bryce Canyon Log Cabins
Also Read: Las Vegas Zion Bryce Grand Canyon Road Trip Itinerary
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Great Basin National Park is located in eastern Nevada near the Utah state line.
It is the only national park in Nevada and one of the least visited in the country.
The drive to the park lasts four and a half hours on lonely roads but the journey is worth it.
Located in the Great Basin desert, the national park has a beautiful landscape of ancient conifers and abundant wildlife.
The aromatic shrub, sagebrush, covers the low lying hills and stretches throughout the valley.
At higher elevations, you will find the tall trees of pines, mahogany, firs, and junipers while the aspens grow on the tallest peaks.
Visitors to the park can drive the 12 miles long Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to Wheeler Peak.
This is the main scenic road in the park.
The mountainous road winds up the South Snake ranges and has amazing overlooks over the Great Basin desert.
Many trailheads are also located along the drive.
At the end is Wheeler Peak. With an altitude of 13,000 feet, this is one of the popular attractions of the park.
It is a great spot for adventure lovers that want to climb up the trail to the summit.
When visiting Great Basin National Park, visitors can also tour the Lehman caves and see ancient bristlecone pine tree groves in the forests surrounding the park.
Besides the amazing scenery, the national park also has camping, photography, biking, fishing, and other interesting things to do and places to visit including Stellar Lake.
Best Place to Stay – Stargazer Inn in Baker, Nevada
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem in the Utah desert.
It is filled with unique geological features including monoliths, domes, and sandstone cliffs.
The park has a unique rock formation with white sandstone domes that resembles the US Capitol building in Washington DC and earns the park its unique name.
Getting to the park from Las Vegas takes about 5 hours and is possible throughout the year with the shortest route being through Interstate 15.
The most accessible section of the park is the Fruita region which has orchards and a scenic drive.
Capitol Reef Park’s several geological features make it an interesting park to explore whether you are visiting for a half-day or an entire weekend.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is very close to Las Vegas and is one of the most famous outdoor things to do in the city.
The area comprises over 1.5 million acres and has a stunning landscape of the Nevada desert, mountains, valleys, and the blue lake.
There are plenty of scenic drives and hiking trails all around the lake.
Of course, water sports are the #1 popular activity in the region.
Visitors can go swimming, launch their pontoons and boats, canoe, and kayak to hidden beaches, as well as fish for many species that call the lake home.
Many campgrounds are also located around Lake Mead and camping is a popular activity.
Yosemite National Park, California
Many people plan a trip around Nevada and Eastern California by visiting the beautiful Yosemite National Park from Las Vegas.
This is one of the top-visited and most beautiful national parks in the country and the scenic route via Highway 395 is amazing to drive.
The time to drive this road is late spring through fall when the Lee Vinings Road to Yosemite is open.
Since you will be entering the popular national park by its back door, you will encounter fewer crowds.
You will be treated to outstanding views of the crystal clear Mercer River and the wildflower-filled Tuolumne Meadows.
The park is also popular for its wildlife. You will also be able to spot bears, deer, and coyotes.
Enjoy hiking to far-flung places in the park and enjoy trails like Mirror Lake loop and the Mist Trail.
However, Yosemite Valley is where the hub of tourist attractions within the National Park is located.
The valley has all kinds of amenities from a visitor center and ranger-led tours to scenic drives like the one to Glacier Point.
The valley is bounded by the granite peaks of Half Dome and El Capitan and is a fantastic place.
The park’s famous waterfall, the Yosemite Falls is located in the valley.
Beyond the valley, Yosemite is also famous for its Giant Sequoia tree groves.
Best Place to Stay – The Pines Resort near Bass Lake
Also Read: Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, while 8 hours away from Las Vegas, is a pretty popular attraction.
The road to Mesa Verde passes through many attractions such as Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyons, Monument Valley, and Four Corners Monument making it a spectacular road trip.
The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must for history and archeology buffs.
The park is home to very well preserved cliff dwellings that belonged to the Ancestral Pueblo people.
The indigenous people built entire villages on the cliff faces at Mesa Verde to protect them from weather and enemies.
Archaeological sites at the national park consist of a total of 4,000+ cliff dwellings.
The on-site museum has several exhibits depicting the lifestyle of the native people.
One of the stunning dwelling structures is the Cliff Palace which has over 150 rooms, 23 kivas, and several towers.
Visitors can see the Cliff Palace on a guided tour.
For those up to the adventure, a must is the one-hour long ranger-led Balcony House Tour.
This cliff dwelling has 40 rooms and visitors need to climb up and down staircases, ladders, and stone steps, descend into a canyon, and crawl through a tunnel to see the entire abode.
After seeing the dwellings and the museum, explore the landscape of the national park.
Drive along the Mesa Top Loop Road to see cliff dwellings and overlooks including the panoramic Sun Point Overlook.
The park also contains petroglyphs; hike the Petroglyph point trail to see them.
Best Place to Stay – Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde / Cortez
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park offers a stunning natural landscape of vivid colors and unique landforms to its visitors.
Located in northwestern Utah, the park is known for its over 2000 naturally occurring arches.
The bright red sandstone arches stand out among other geological forms like giant bare boulders, majestic fins, windows, and pinnacles.
The road trip from Las Vegas to the park is about 530 miles but the drive passes along many other Utah parks and can be easily done as a multi-day road trip.
The famed red rock arches are as delightful to see up close as they look in the pictures.
The national park also has many trails of varying difficulties to see the most popular rock formations.
The park colors are most magnificent at sunset; partly because the red sandstone color looks even more bright at that time and partly because of the low pollution and great air quality within the park.
The night sky also looks amazing and capturing the galaxy against a natural arch is every photographer’s dream.
Some of the most famous arches and rock formations include Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch in Devil’s Garden, the Balanced Rock formation, Double Arch and Corona Arch.
Drive the scenic drives to enjoy views of the La Sal Mountains and the Window Section.
For a spectacular view of various arches connected by hiking trails within the park, go to the Devil’s Garden.
Camping in the park is one of the best ways to fully explore the park’s grounds.
Best Place to Stay – Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab
Best State Parks near Las Vegas
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park is a recreation area and nature preserve 50 miles (about a one hour drive) northeast of Las Vegas.
The park is primarily known for its eye-catching red Aztec sandstone formations but is also home to a collection of ancient petroglyphs and petrified trees.
Valley of Fire is best enjoyed by taking a scenic drive through the park.
There are two scenic drives in the park – the Valley of Fire Highway and the White Domes Road.
The latter is six miles long and more scenic than the main highway.
Along both the drives, there are trailheads, viewpoints, and colorful rock formations.
Some of the must-see rock formations are Elephant Rock and Balancing Rock.
Another great way to enjoy the colorful landscape and stunning vistas is by hiking through the state park.
There are several hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties that are worth exploring; most of the popular trails are located along the scenic routes.
Good short trails to complete on your first visit are White Domes Loop, Fire Wave Trail, Pink Canyon, and Mouse’s Tank.
On the Mouse’s Tank trail, you can see ancient Native American petroglyphs.
Camping is another popular activity at Valley of Fire State Park.
The park has two campgrounds and both have great views of the rock formations.
All campsites are first-come, first-served, and can often be full.
If you’re unable to get a campsite, you can still enjoy a day trip to the park.
Best Place to Stay- Atlatl Campground
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Snow Canyon State Park, Utah
Snow Canyon is one of the most beautiful state parks in Utah.
It’s known for its red and white sandstone cliffs, which provide a stunning backdrop to the green fields and trees below.
The park offers plenty of activities for visitors, including hiking, biking, camping, and horseback riding.
It’s also a great place to observe nature, with more than 300 species of plants and animals calling Snow Canyon home.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway, Snow Canyon is well worth your time!
Lake Havasu State Park, Arizona
Lake Havasu State Park is located near Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Comprising the scenic shoreline of Lake Havasu, there are plenty of things to do in this unique tourist attraction.
A highlight of the park is the white sand beach along the lakeshore that is at odds with the surrounding desert landscape.
The state park also has a grassy picnic area and has spectacular views of the mountain ranges and lake at sunset.
The park has hiking trails and campgrounds for outdoor lovers.
The most popular hike is the Mojave Sunset Trail.
Water enthusiasts will enjoy swimming along the shores and launching boats in the lake.
Kayaking and canoeing are also popular here.
Another unique attraction located outside the state park is the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.
This is the Old London Bridge which when replaced by a new bridge was transported piece by piece from London to Lake Havasu City and rebuilt here.
It is a fun attraction to visit while nearby.
Best Place to Stay – London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City
Best natural attractions other than national or state parks close to Las Vegas
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
If you have less time, then the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is your best bet for closest national parks near Las Vegas.
It is located just 30 minutes – 15 miles – away from the Las Vegas Strip and lies in Nevada’s Mojave desert.
Although the canyon is close to Las Vegas there is virtually no cell phone reception inside the park and you are instantly drawn into nature.
Outdoor lovers love Red Rock Canyon for many reasons.
The large red rock formations inside the park look stunning against the desert landscape.
Visitors are often taken aback by how beautiful the desert can really be.
It is oftentimes a forgotten part of our ecosystem, but a visit to the Red Rock Canyon will garner a new appreciation for the desert.
The visitor’s center has information about the desert and exhibits to learn more about the ecosystem and animals that survive there.
You can also see Desert Tortoises in their live habitats.
After enjoying the exhibits in the visitor’s center, it is time to drive the scenic loop road to see the beauty of the canyon.
If you do not plan to hike or make frequent stops, the 13-mile route will take 30 – 35 minutes.
If you plan to stop at the pullouts and trailheads, plan to spend at least 2 hours here.
For avid hikers, there are over 25 hiking trails of varying difficulty that explore the buttes, chimneys, and other features of the canyon.
Besides hiking trails and scenic drives, Red Rock Canyon is popular for biking and rock climbing.
Where to stay: Wyndham Desert Blue Las Vegas
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Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument, Nevada
Located just north of Sin City, the Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument is home to some of the best preserved Ice Age fossils in North America.
Visitors can see bones from mammoths, camels, horses and other extinct creatures that roamed the area over 10,000 years ago at Tule Springs Fossil Beds.
The monument is open year-round, and offers a variety of interpretive programs for visitors of all ages.
Antelope Canyons, Arizona
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona is one of the best natural wonders in the world.
It’s a sandstone slot canyon located in Navajo Nation.
The slot canyon, formed due to weathering, is famous for the swirling patterns in red canyon walls.
Antelope Canyon is actually composed of two separate slot canyons – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.
Though both the canyons are equally stunning, travelers mostly prefer Upper over Lower because of the unique light beams phenomenon seen in the Upper Antelope Canyon.
Visitors need to plan their visit to the Upper Antelope Canyon at the right time of the year and day to see the beautiful light beams stream through the canyon.
The light rays look incredible during April and October from 10 am to 12 pm.
Lower Antelope Canyon is more narrow than the upper canyon and the hike through the canyon is more strenuous.
The lower canyon also has unusual and beautiful patterns.
It is popular between 12 pm to 1 pm as it looks vivid and gorgeous in the afternoon light.
Navajo Nation manages Antelope Canyon and they can be seen via guided tours only.
There are separate tour operators for the Upper and Lower canyons.
Make sure to book in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the peak season.
Whichever slot canyon you choose to visit, you will be awe-struck by the vivid colors that change with the light.
The entire experience is other-worldly and makes Antelope Canyons one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas.
Best Places to Stay – Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Page Lake Powell
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Best Place to Stay – Hat Rock Inn
We hope you liked our epic guide to the best natural areas, scenic state parks, national monuments, attractions located on tribal reservations, and famous national parks to visit near Las Vegas.
Did we miss out on any famous natural attraction or hidden gem near Sin City?
Let us know in the comments.