The Grand Canyon
Stuart Bak

Things to do Outside Las Vegas City

No-one ever said that someone who is tired of Las Vegas is tired of life. And that’s because, quite frankly, Sin City can be *exhausting*: the 24-hour hustle and bustle; that constant neon glare; all those glitzy casinos, shows, restaurants, pools and rooftop bars vying for your attention; the overwhelming chaos of the Strip. It’s no surprise that, after a couple of days of high rolling, frazzled travelers often find themselves ready to recharge. The good news is that there are plenty of great things to do outside Las Vegas city. Hey, just because it’s in the middle of a desert doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of eye-popping natural (oh ok, and man-made) attractions to discover, many within an hour of the Strip. Indeed, its desert location is what makes it such a fine destination for out-of-town excursions. The best of both worlds, if you will. So saddle up and join us on our rundown of some of the best day trips from Las Vegas, including:

  • The Grand Canyon
  • Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
  • Seven Magic Mountains
  • Red Rock Canyon
  • Mount Charleston

The Grand Canyon

Helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip

There are a number of ways to experience the Grand Canyon. Indeed, you may well be able to pap it from your flight into town (assuming you’re sat on the right side of the plane, that is). But can you really say you’ve ‘done’ the Grand Canyon if you haven’t set foot in it? No, dear reader, you cannot.

So go on: book yourself a thrilling helicopter ride for spectacular (and close-up) aerial views as you cruise over the south or west rims of this epic natural wonder, before touching down among its iconic rust-red rocks and hardy desert wildflowers. You’ll have plenty of time for a wander and/or to stuff your camera roll full with enough selfies to fill your Insta feed for a year. Many operators also offer bolt-on experiences like champagne picnics and birthday celebrations for those ultimate #humblebrag souvenir snaps.

The sunset ride back into Vegas ain’t too shabby either, as you soar over the neon-lit Strip against a backdrop of blazing desert skies. Magical.

Seven Magic Mountains

The Seven Magic Mountains art installation in the Mojave Desert

You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been hitting the mescal too hard when you first lay eyes on the Seven Magic Mountains, a trippy Mojave Desert art installation by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone, around 30 minutes south of Las Vegas. The sculpture consists of seven gravity-defying towers of boulders, some teetering as high as 35 feet tall! But that’s not all: these desert totems are painted in a kaleidoscope of colors – sky blue, mint green, flamingo pink – making for quite the eye-popping sight against those big azure desert skies.

The installation is visible from Interstate 15, but is far more impressive up close. Take a good pair of walking boots and get there early to beat the crowds.

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area

Cathedral Rock in Mount Charleston

You probably didn’t come to Las Vegas expecting snow. But snow is what you can have on a trip out to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, or simply Mount Charleston as the locals know it. This is one of the (ahem) coolest things to do outside Las Vegas city limits, and is only about an hour north of the Strip.

Temperatures here tend to run around 20-30 degrees lower than the city, making this fine natural wonder and Mount Charleston, its frequently snow-capped star, an excellent choice for escaping the Las Vegas heat. The scenic drive out of town is impressive enough in its own right, as the landscape transforms from those heat-hazed Martian reds to a coole, greener alpine environment. But the park’s lush wilderness, all pine forests and crashing waterfalls, is nothing short of spectacular. 

There’s a vast variety of hiking opportunities here, and it’s also where you can spot gnarly bristlecone pines, among the most ancient living trees on the planet, some of them many thousands of years old. Take the relatively unchallenging Bristlecone Loop, or steel yourself for a 16-hour round-trip ramble to Charleston Peak, nearly 12,000 feet up in the clouds, where views, on clear days, of Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada, and Las Vegas, provide quite the stunning reward.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, Nevada

There’s a variety of ways you can enjoy the epic natural wonder that is Red Rock Canyon: 200,000 prehistoric acres of rust-colored sandstone stacks and cacti-crammed valleys. The canyon’s location just a few miles west of downtown makes it one of the easiest things to do outside Las Vegas. Rent a pink Cadillac and cruise there in less than half an hour (top down and ‘Viva Las Vegas’ blasting out at maximum volume, natch). There’s a scenic 13-mile driving loop, from which it's possible to access most of the hiking trails, from short casual rambles to steep, glute-straining ascents. You can even book guided half- or full-day horseback hacks through this extraordinary wild landscape, keeping peepers peeled (and camera at the ready) for hidden waterfalls, ancient Native American petroglyphs, and the twitching ears of curious jackrabbits along the way.

Check out some of the hiking trails here.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is one of those feats of early 20th-century engineering and ingenuity that will leave your jaw on the floor from the moment you set eyes on it. The dam’s shapely curves aren’t just there to look good either: it’s an arch-gravity dam, which means the pressure of the water against its specific curvature actually makes it stronger. Impressive. As with most out-of-town Vegas attractions, there’s a whole menu of ways to visit the Hoover Dam and its reservoir (the biggest in the United States, fact fans), Lake Mead, where its possible to go boating, swimming, water skiing and more.

You could take a helicopter ride for aerial views, or get there by coach and set foot on the thing, taking in panoramic views from the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge some 905 feet above the Colorado River. The latter is available with the Go City Las Vegas attractions pass, which includes access to dozens more Sin City bucket-listers for one money-saving price. Check it out here.

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