death valley mesquite sand dunes

How to visit the National Parks near Las Vegas

Nestled in the southwestern United States, Las Vegas is a city that never sleeps. But just beyond the bright lights and endless entertainment, visitors can find an entirely different world: the stunning natural beauty of the National Parks.

With multiple National Parks within easy driving distance, Las Vegas is the perfect base for exploring the wild and scenic landscapes of the American West. So whether you’re a seasoned hiker or simply looking to escape the city for a day, the National Parks near Las Vegas will take your breath away.

The Best National Parks Near Las Vegas You Need to See

This is a quick overview of the best national parks near Vegas, with a much more detailed breakdown below.

Grand Canyon National Park

First on the list is the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, just a four-hour drive from Las Vegas. Spanning over 270 miles, the Grand Canyon is a natural wonder that attracts millions of visitors yearly. Hiking is the most popular activity in the park, with trails ranging from easy walks to challenging multi-day backpacking trips.

The silver bridge which crosses over the Colorado River at the bottom of the grand canyon .
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

However, for those looking for a more relaxed experience, the park’s scenic drives and overlooks offer stunning canyon views without needing a hike. Overall, it’s one of the best national parks near Las Vegas.

Zion National Park

Another must-see National Park near Las Vegas is Zion National Park, just two and a half hours away. Zion’s towering red cliffs, lush green valleys, and winding rivers make it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The park offers various activities, from hiking and rock climbing to horseback riding and scenic drives.

The famous Zion Narrows hike, where you walk in a river through a slot canyon, is a bucket list experience for many visitors. With so much to see and do, Zion National Park is an essential stop on any trip to the American Southwest.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch/@alecoutside

Death Valley National Park

Next up is Death Valley National Park, located about two and a half hours from Las Vegas. As the hottest and driest place in North America, Death Valley may seem like a barren wasteland, but it’s a place of surprising beauty. The park offers a range of activities, including hiking, camping, and scenic drives.

In addition, visitors can explore salt flats, sand dunes, and canyons and even see unique geological formations such as the Racetrack, where rocks mysteriously move across a dry lakebed. Of the National Parks near Las Vegas, it’s such a gem and honestly one of my favorites.

Related: Visiting Havasupai – just 4 hours from Vegas

Joshua Tree National Park

Furthermore, hours south of Las Vegas, Joshua Tree National Park is a beloved destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The park is known for its unique desert landscape, filled with twisted Joshua trees, massive boulders, and sweeping vistas.

Whether you’re looking to hike, rock climb, stargaze, or unwind in the stunning desert scenery, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-see destination.

Zion Canyon Overlook best national parks near las vegas

Breaking down the best National Parks Near Las Vegas

Well, here we are! It’s time to buckle up and dive into the National Parks near Vegas. These are some of the most majestic national parks in the desert southwest, so if you’re coming from the east coast or Midwest, be prepared to have your socks blown straight off.

So, let’s get going on the road trips from Las Vegas to National Parks.

Driving to Death Valley National Park

artists palette death valley best national parks near las vegas

Distance: 2.25 hours, 150 miles

Best things to see:

Badwater Basin – The lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin is a stunning geological exhibit that allows for tons of creativity on the photography side. There’s an official trail, but you can deviate from that and avoid the crowds.

Mesquite Sand Dunes – Another one of my favorite places in DV, as it allows for tons of exploring, and you’ll ditch the crowds after about 15 minutes. Be warned, though; walking in the sand dunes is much more exhausting. The highest point is two miles, but it’ll feel longer. Overall, this is one of the spots to hit for those looking for great road trips from Las Vegas to National Parks!

Zabriskie Point – The best sunrise spot in the park. Be prepared for a lot of people, but you’ll still be able to get your shot or view with no problem. I’d arrive 30 minutes before sunrise to ensure you get a parking spot.

What else you should know:

With most of Death Valley National Park sitting below sea level, it is one of the hottest places on Earth during the summer. This is also when you shouldn’t visit. However, it’s one of the best adventure destinations on the west coast from October through March.

However, it will still warm up during the day, even in the cooler months. So bring plenty of water and sun protection. It’s also the closest of the National Parks near Las Vegas, only two and a quarter-hour drive away.

Grab these hot weather hiking gear

Getting to Zion National Park

Observation Point Hike Zion

Distance: 2.5 hours, 170 miles

Best things to see:

Hike Angels Landing – The preeminent hike in Zion National Park, Angels Landing, is a fantastic experience and one anyone without severe fear of heights should attempt. Overall, it’s a 4.5-mile trek with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. It’s a pretty steady incline, save the first quarter mile, and doesn’t have anything too steep.

However, Walter’s Wiggles is a good set of switchbacks that will get the heart rate pumping. If you want to hike this, you have to secure a permit.

Explore the Narrows – Another of the famous portions of Zion. The Narrows is a majestic slot canyon that requires walking in water once you’ve completed the mile or so trail to get there. Ensure you have water shoes (which you can rent from town). Furthermore, this area can be frigid in winter and spring, so be warned that it’s not an easy walk during the colder months.

Get a permit to visit the Subway – If you secure a permit, the Subway is a nine-mile trail with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. It begins by going downhill before coming back up for the final portion. Expect to get wet on this adventure!

What else you should know:

If you want to hike Angels Landing, Zion’s permitting system makes it paramount to plan your trip ahead of time. I highly recommend camping in the park as it offers quick access to the shuttle. The best months to camp are April and May and in the fall.

Exploring the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

grand canyon north rim national parks near las vegas

Distance: 4.25 hours, 265 miles

Best things to see:

Watch the sunrise from Bright Angel Point – This is one of the most beautiful views of the Grand Canyon. I was able to soak in the sunrise before completing Rim-to-Rim. The walk to Bright Angel Point is primarily flat, and you’ll be able to see across the canyon to the south rim. My favorite aspect was seeing Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s tallest mountain, on the horizon.

I firmly believe this is one of the best National Parks near Las Vegas.

Hike down the North Kaibab Trail – Most reading this won’t be completing R2R, but hiking down a few miles and experiencing the Grand Canyon from within is still worth it. Getting down to Roaring Springs is an 11-mile trek round trip for those seeking a more strenuous hike.

What else you should know:

The North Rim is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, and winter lingers much longer here. On that exact grain, it’s closed for the winter months, while the South Rim is open year-round. So before visiting the National Parks near Las Vegas, make sure this side of the canyon is open.

Exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Yavapi Point Grand canyon sunset photography
national parks near vegas

Distance: 4.5 hours, 290 miles

Best things to see:

Hike down the Bright Angel Trail – There’s seeing the Grand Canyon from above, and then there’s seeing it from within. Most visitors stay on top, which is a bummer because getting inside is magical. For most people, I recommend only going to the 1.5-mile house, which makes your total hike 3 miles.

If you’re more experienced, getting down to the three-mile house puts the massive walls into perspective. There is water on this trail (nearly) year-round.

Watch the sunset at Yavapai Point – This is a brilliant place to enjoy the sunset and one of the spots the National Park recommends, so you won’t exactly be alone. However, there’s plenty of space to find your own creative shot and freedom to enjoy the moment.

Trek to Ooh-Ahh Point – This is down the South Kaibab trail, away from the crowds and Bright Angel Trail. If you want to get into the canyon but not hike too far, Ooh-Ahh Point is a two-mile round trip and 700 feet down. If you’re looking for a more challenging day hike, head down to Skeleton Point (6 miles, 2,000 feet of elevation gain/loss), and your views will be incredible!

Remember, the South Kaibab Trail does not have water or much shade. You’ll have to pack what you want to drink.

What else you should know:

The south Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round and is, in my opinion, the best of the National Parks near Las Vegas. There are tons of hiking for all levels, and nothing rivals the massive canyon. Completing the Rim to River in a single day is a fantastic experience for those looking to do more strenuous hikes.

Related: Looking for another National Parks roaadtrip, try LA to Yosemite.

Hiking through Joshua Tree National Park

Distance: 3.5 hours, 220 miles

Best things to see:

Hidden Valley – Hidden Valley is a moderate 1-mile loop hike that takes you through a stunning valley surrounded by massive rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park. This hike is ideal for families with children or anyone looking for a leisurely stroll.

The trailhead is located near the Hidden Valley Campground, and the hike takes you through an area once used by cattle rustlers to hide their stolen livestock. However, the towering rock walls create a natural barrier, making it an excellent place to relax and enjoy the park’s beauty.

Along the way, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and rock climbers scaling the cliffs.

Arch Rock Trail – You’ll love this scenic 0.5-mile hike that takes you to a massive arch formation in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. The trail is relatively flat and perfect for families with children or those who want to experience the park’s beauty without strenuous hiking.

The arch is impressive, and the surrounding landscape is dotted with twisted Joshua trees and giant boulder formations. You may even spot a desert tortoise or a Chuckwalla lizard basking in the sun if you’re lucky. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as there is little shade along the trail.

Ryan Mountain Trail – Embark on this challenging 3-mile round-trip hike that takes you to the summit of Ryan Mountain, the second-highest peak in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail is steep and rocky, but the incredible panoramic views at the summit make it well worth the effort. You can see the Salton Sea and the San Jacinto Mountains from the top.

Bring plenty of water and snacks, as the hike can take several hours. The trailhead is located near the Ryan Campground, and the best time to hike is during the year’s cooler months.

What else you should know:

Like Death Valley, Joshua Tree sits in a desert and can be extremely warm in summer. Therefore, I’d advise against visiting between May and August, as temperatures sit above 105 for most of the day. However, for those looking to enjoy the night sky, this is a perfect time to see the Milky Way and other constellations.

So, if you are planning a night sky adventure, this is the best National Park near Las Vegas for you.

The Best National Parks near Las Vegas – Reservations and Accessibility Alerts

Remember that if you’re visiting Zion National Park, you must have a permit to hike Angels Landing. However, you do not need one to be on the shuttle during peak hours. Additionally, ensure the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is open and accessible as winter lasts longer at 8,000 feet.

Knowing these things will make your National Parks near Vegas adventure less of a headache!

grand canyon north kaibab trail road trips from las vegas to national parks

FAQs: National Parks Near Las Vegas

What state parks near Las Vegas are worth visiting?

The best state parks closest to Las Vegas are Valley of Fire State Park and Spring Mountain Rain State Park. Valley of Fire is definitely the most popular with its stunning red rocks, beautiful photo opportunities, and wildlife.

What is the closest national park to Las Vegas?

Death Valley National Park is one of the National Parks near Las Vegas, only two hours away. Zion National Park is only a bit further, at 2.5 hour’s driving distance. Both are very accessible to reach, with time left over for adventure. You can’t go wrong with the best National Parks near Las Vegas.

Which is closer to Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, or Zion National Park?

Zion National Park is much closer to Las Vegas than Bryce Canyon NP. Zion is 2.5 hours away, with Bryce being a tad under four hours. Check out this blog for a Zion to Bryce Canyon adventure.

What Utah national parks are close to Las Vegas?

The closest Utah National Park is Zion National Park. Its famed Angels Landing and the Narrows make it a perfect destination for all types of hikers and naturalists. Just be warned, they require a reservation to take the shuttle during the busy seasons (summer).

If you don’t have one, you won’t be able to access the park. Hiking and adventuring here will show why it’s one of the best National Parks near Las Vegas.

Is a one-day trip from Las Vegas to Zion National Park feasible?

Yes, it’s feasible, but you likely won’t have a great time. Zion requires multiple days to visit. It no longer makes sense for a spur-of-the-moment trip. I’d recommend Bryce National Park or Grand Canyon National Park for last-minute trips to National Parks near Vegas.

mesquite sand dunes death valley national parks near las vegas

Planning your Road trips from Las Vegas to National Parks

Clothes and Gear Suggestions

Hiking in sunny and warm climates requires having specific clothes that protect your skin and keep you cool. While adventuring in the National Parks near Vegas, having the right gear is crucial.

Specific Gear I recommend

What to know about hiking in the desert

Hiking and spending time here can be rewarding and thrilling. It can also be deadly if not done correctly. Before embarking on any trip, ensure you have everything you need, with water being the most important.

If you ever feel light-headed or dizzy, stop and drink water. Then, consider heading back to your car. Additionally, try not to spend time outside during the hottest parts of the day – usually 12-4 pm.

The best time to take a trip to the National Parks Near Las Vegas?

Any trip to the desert southwest is best from October through April. Here you’ll find moderate daytime temperatures with cool evenings. It’s perfect for hiking and exploring. However, it is still the desert and can be far warmer than expected without notice. This means you should always watch the weather forecast and bring plenty of water and sun protection to make your time more enjoyable.

If you are planning to do this in the summer months, the only place I’d recommend is the Grand Canyon. Here, at an elevation above 7,000 feet, your summer highs will be in the 60-70s, making it one of the best National Parks near Las Vegas to visit.

A Few Activities to do

Click here for a full list

Brief History of Las Vegas

The area now known as Las Vegas was initially settled by the Paiute people, who called the land “Mojave Narrows” and used it for hunting and gathering. Then, in the early 1800s, a group of Spanish explorers led by Rafael Rivera came across the area and named it “Las Vegas,” which means “The Meadows” in Spanish.

The lush grasses and water sources inspired the area’s name, making it an essential stop for travelers and traders.

In the late 1800s, Las Vegas became a railroad town thanks to the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad construction. The railroad brought jobs and economic growth to the area, and the population began to grow. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that Las Vegas began to take shape as a city.

Throughout the early 1900s, Las Vegas grew as a small but thriving city. The construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s brought even more economic growth to the area, as thousands of workers came to the city to help build the dam. The dam’s completion in 1935 brought electricity and water to the region, which helped pave the way for further development.

However, it wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that Las Vegas truly began to take off as a destination. In 1941, the El Rancho Vegas resort opened on the Las Vegas Strip, later becoming the heart of the city’s famous casino industry. Other iconic resorts and casinos like the Flamingo, the Sahara, and the Sands followed the El Rancho Vegas.

During this time, Las Vegas was known as a place where people could come to gamble, drink, and party in a way that was not possible in other parts of the country. The city’s liberal laws on gambling, prostitution, and alcohol made it an attractive destination for tourists looking for a good time. The city’s reputation as a place of excess and indulgence only grew in the 1960s and 1970s, with the opening of famous casinos like Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand, and the Bellagio.

Wrapping up – National Parks near Las Vegas

I hope I’ve inspired you to visit these handfuls of National Parks near Las Vegas and given you a small taste of what is in store. They’re all unique and diverse in their own right; I know you will have a fantastic time at these natural destinations.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside