Alternate Las Vegas: Our ultimate guide to the best day hikes and adventures from the Las Vegas Strip

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Enterprise Rent A Car; all thoughts and opinions are our own. 

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When you think about a vacation to Las Vegas, you immediately think of the iconic city, the casinos it houses and enjoying some well earnt rest and recuperation by the side of a gorgeous hotel pool. Whilst the city itself has so much to explore and countless attractions to keep you entertained for what feels like an eternity, there is so much more to explore than just the city itself. Las Vegas is surrounded by a whole host of incredible, unique landscapes with some world class hiking. Stretching through Nevada, Utah and California, there are countless ideas and possibilities for day hikes that are easily achievable, ranging from one to no more than three hours drive from the Las Vegas Strip. 

What we love about the Las Vegas area is that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. With world class luxury hotels at your feet; it’s achievable to explore an incredible hike and be relaxing by the pool, indulging in a spa treatment and be enjoying some of the attractions Las Vegas has to offer all on the same day. If you’re new to adventure, it’s the perfect place to explore as many of the hikes in the area are well signposted and can be achievable as a beginner and a good number of the options available are very family friendly too. If you’re visiting Vegas in a group or with family and they have very different ideas of what feels relaxing to them and you’re craving adventure, this is a great location to base yourself in to be able to go and explore on your own and build up your confidence. Allowing yourself to have a taster of rugged desert mountain hikes whilst still in the comfort of a hotel stay is a great place to start. For us, we always feel a really strong connection to places where it’s possible to have a variety of experiences and really look outside the box – that is how we got into adventure in the first place. You may even find that introducing more adventure to your trip will completely open up your ideas for other, more focused trips and pursuits you’d like to try out. The idea of being able to design a vacation around relaxing and adventure is an incredible way to work out what it is that interests you, all whilst taking in some inspiring and truly breathtaking sights. Whether you’re flying in to Vegas or even if you’re travelling from home by car, it would be worth considering renting a vehicle that may be bigger, more comfortable or just more suitable for the trip you’re going to be taking. 

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Below, we’ve highlighted our favorite areas to explore as day trips from Las Vegas. You’ll notice that unlike a lot of our destination pieces, we haven’t included specific trail maps for every location. This is partly because each area has so many trails within, and some of them relatively short that it’s entirely possible to take in more than one a day. When we haven’t given specific trail map, it is because that location has an informative visitor center who will provide you a map of the park or area on arrival. These all have the main trails mapped out, and details on how to get to each one. Once you’re on the trails that are marked out, they are incredibly easy to follow. We’ve rated each location based on the experience you need. In the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area for example, it’s a good idea if this isn’t your first hike. If you’re craving more of a backcountry experience, this is entirely possible in many of the areas listed below. In this case, it’s advisable to speak to a ranger at the visitor center about this so you can discuss your options and get any maps and provisions sorted out that you’ll need. Whilst backcountry adventures are an incredible experience, the American desert is a harsh environment and we would only recommend embarking on something like this if you have previous experience and good navigational skills. If you are fairly new to hiking, we’d recommend starting with some of the more trafficked trails to get a taste for what it is that interests you. For the areas that do not have a visitor center, we’ve clearly marked and provided more detailed suggestions for hikes to take in the area. 

 

Valley of Fire State Park

Distance: 57 miles / 1 hour 7 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip 

Entrance Fee: is chargeable and paid at the visitor center. At time of writing, this is $10 per car, per day. 

Experience level: marked trails are easy to follow, and a trail map is provided, so this is a great area for beginners. If you want to do some backcountry hiking, we’d recommend speaking to the visitor center first. 

Best time to visit: Spring and Autumn. In summer, temperatures can reach well over 100F and in winter, temperatures can dip below freezing at night. Open all year from dawn to dusk.

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What to bring:

Water (at least 1 gallon per person, per day, more if you’re planning to backcountry) 

Sunscreen

Snacks/food 

Hiking shoes 

 

Valley of Fire is a must-see state park, even if all you do is take a scenic drive through. Once you start driving through on your way to the visitor center, it’s pretty clear to see how it got its name! With towering, mystical red rock formations adorning the park, there are some incredible trails to explore here. The diversity and dramatic landscapes you’ll find at Valley of Fire are simply stunning. Most of the trails in the park are quite short and within a day/two days at most, it would be possible to complete most, if not all of the trails in the park. Our favorite suggestions for trails are the Fire Wave Trail, Rainbow Vista and Fire Canyon Overlook Trail. We’d also highly recommend driving along Mouse’s Tank Road (which you will likely do anyway to get to some of the hikes) – the views are truly spectacular and there are some great photo opportunities along the way.

 

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area 

Distance: 126 miles / 1hour 54 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip 

Entrance Fee: Free to enter 

Experience level: intermediate or experienced beginner hiker. The trails here are less easy to follow, but that said, with a little bit of GPS experience, you’ll have no problem here. Like many of the country roads in the West, you will be driving on a dirt/sand road for the last couple of miles to the trailhead, so it’s a good idea to ring the local contact station in advance to check road conditions, but we were fine in a regular sedan. 

Best time to visit: Spring and Autumn. In summer, especially in the middle of the day it is not advisable to enter the desert here. If you’re experienced, it is possible to complete this hike in the summer provided you start and finish your hike early in the day (before noon). Open all year.

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What to bring:

Water (at least 1 gallon per person, per day, more if you’re planning to backcountry). Be sure to keep more in your car as well, as well as extra food for when you return. We also recommend rehydration drinks to help – ones with salts, sugars and minerals that are lost when sweating in the heat are good for the body to rehydrate. 

Sunscreen

Snacks/food 

Hiking boots or covered toe hiking shoes – there is deep sand in places, and rocky elements, so refrain from fabrics with lots of holes in – you will be pulling sand out for weeks 

 

Just past the border of Nevada in Utah, this area has some incredible hiking options. The hiking trails we completed here were relatively short in distance, but when you’ve hiked through deep sand for a while, you’ll welcome seeing your car before too long! This is a place where you can experience solitude, and we didn’t see another soul the whole time we were there. Whilst this is something we love, because of the remote nature, we’d advise you tell someone of your plans and where you are going to be and when to expect you back. The Red Cliffs give you a really great taster for what lies further afield in Utah and has some incredible views, allowing you to take in the expanse of the landscape around you. There is no cell service in the area, so make sure you have your maps loaded up and downloaded before you leave Vegas for the day. We enjoyed the Babylon Arch Trail, a moderate out and back – which we’ve provided a map to download below. We’ve provided the route for the outbound journey, which you can just follow on your return.  

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Zion National Park

Distance: 165 miles / 2 hours 43 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip 

Entrance Fee: Entry fee is payable, please check the current NPS website for further details. It is worth noting that if you’re planning on visiting more than one National Park on your trip, that an America The Beautiful Pass will save you money. The pass allows you entry into any National Park in the US and many other places for a year for a one-off fee (not much more than the standard National Park entrance fee). This can be purchased at the entrance the same as the regular entrance fee. 

Experience level: Complete beginner to difficult – the hikes mapped out in the visitor guide provided are really easy to follow. Some of these hikes are easy, some intermediate and some challenging in terms of terrain.

Best time to visit: Temperatures fluctuate throughout the year. Whilst it is possible to visit in the summer, it is much more comfortable in Spring and Autumn. Our favorite time would be autumn; the colors are stunning, and the temperatures are much more manageable. Open all year.

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What to bring:

Water 

Sunscreen

Snacks/food 

Hiking boots due to some rocky trails and if planning to hike The Narrows, it is possible to rent waterproof hiking shoes for this locally. 

 

Zion is one of the most visited parks in the US – understandably so, it’s beautiful. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, its best to turn up early in the morning or later in the evening. Most of the trails are along a shuttle bus system, where you can park your car at a variety of points from Springdale/Visitor center. The shuttle bus is free and connects you to most of the trails in the park – it’s worth bearing in mind that this can get extremely busy and parking is limited. What we love about Zion is that even though it can well be busy, you can also find areas which are much quieter – such as Kolob Canyon which is a must to check out. The reason that this area is potentially quieter may be due to it not being within the main park drive, as you need to drive through Springdale and take another entrance. You could easily base a whole trip around Zion, but if you’re only planning to visit for a day, our favorite trail to take would be Observation Point, rewarding you with stunning views overlooking the canyon with iconic Angels Landing in sight. It is also possible to backcountry hike in Zion but you’ll need a permit and you’ll need to go to the visitor center and work all your plans out with them. 

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Rainbow Basin Natural Area 

Distance: 162 miles / 2 hours 35 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip 

Entrance Fee: Free to enter 

Experience level: Beginner to intermediate. You will need to download your trail maps before you go, but this is an easy place to hike. 

Best time to visit: Spring and Autumn. In summer, especially in the middle of the day it is not advisable to enter the desert here. If you’re experienced, it is possible to complete this hike in the summer provided you start and finish your hike early in the day (before noon). Open all year.

What to bring:

Water (at least 1 gallon per person, per day, more if you’re planning to backcountry). Be sure to keep more in your car as well, as well as extra food for when you return. We also recommend rehydration drinks to help – ones with salts, sugars and minerals that are lost when sweating in the heat are good for the body to rehydrate. 

Sunscreen

Snacks/food 

Hiking shoes 

 

At pretty much the mid-way point between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Rainbow Basin Natural Area is really worth the trip. The name really explains it all, as you’ll be amazed by the beautiful rock formations that look like they’ve been dusted with powder paint. You’ll be stepping into a geological paradise here. The scenic road, which doubles as a hiking trail allows you to veer off and explore the rocks and canyons all around. You can spend the whole day doing this alone, but we’d also recommend Owl Canyon Trail also if you have the time, this linear trail can be found from Owl Canyon campground, which is well signposted from the Scenic road. You will not be disappointed with a visit here – truly stunning with amazing photography opportunities minute by minute. We’ve included a link below to the trail but is pretty easy to follow

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Death Valley National Park

Distance: 105 miles / 2 hours 2 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip 

Entrance Fee: Entry fee is payable, please check the current NPS website for further details. It is worth noting that if you’re planning on visiting more than one National Park on your trip, that an America The Beautiful Pass will save you money. The pass allows you entry into any National Park in the US and many other places for a year for a one-off fee (not much more than the standard National Park entrance fee. This can be purchased at the entrance the same as the regular entrance fee. 

Experience level: Complete beginner to difficult – the hikes mapped out in the visitor guide to the park are really easy to follow. Some of these hikes are easy, some intermediate and some challenging. 

Best time to visit: As the hottest known place in America, it is seriously advisable to visit Death Valley in Spring, Autumn and Winter. Temperatures get very high here and it can be extremely dangerous in the summer months. Open all year.

 

What to bring:

Water – it’s advised to bring 32 oz per hour 

Sunscreen

Snacks/food – salty snacks are good 

Hiking shoes

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It’s hard to get an understanding of the enormity of Death Valley until you begin your drive through; it is absolutely huge! What we love about Death Valley, aside from its beauty, is that there is the real opportunity to head into the backcountry into the high mountains. Whilst the basin is incredibly hot, the higher mountains provide a cool respite (and incredible views). If you only have a day to check out Death Valley, we’d really recommend taking in some of the points on the map provided at the visitor center. Some of these are observation points, whilst some involve relatively short hikes. Our favorite places to check out would be Zabriskies Point, Artists Palette and The Devils Golf Course. If you want to take in a few more, we’d suggest Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Gower Gulch Loop and Ubehebe Crater Rim. 

If you’re planning to visit more of the West on your trip to Vegas, you may also be interested to read our Joshua Tree and Southern California guides.

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THIS EXPANSIVE ADVENTURE

From adventures and ultimate destination guides to mindset hacks and photography, we’re passionate about helping you to live a life full of adventure in whatever way feels good to you, without the fuss.

 

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