Why Yes, You Can See a Lil Bit of Nature on Your Vegas Trip

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delicate arch, arches national park, ut

12 Awe-Inducing National Parks Near Vegas Mark Brodkin Photography – Getty Images

For the most part, you probably associate Sin City with partying, partying, and oh yeah, more partying. But a quick look at a map will remind you that Las Vegas is actually surrounded by breathtaking nature too, thanks to its proximity to more than a dozen national parks out West. The best part? All of these Vegas-adjacent natural wonders are located within an eight-hour drive of the Strip, which makes them perfect for a day or weekend trip during your visit. And considering that each park has an entirely different claim to fame, from surreal desert vibes to awe-inducing big trees to thousands of acres of open land, you’ve got plenty of options to tack onto your next Vegas vacay. Here are our favorite national parks near Vegas, plus approximately how long it’ll take you to drive to each spot from your hotel in LV.

Death Valley National Park

Travel time from Vegas: two hours

Be warned, this park gets hot as hell around this time of year— summertime temps regularly pass 115 degrees! If you go, bring lots of water, both for yourself and your car (in case the car overheats). And be sure to visit the salt flats of Badwater Basin, which, at 282 feet below sea level, are the lowest point in the United States.

badlands view from zabriskie point in death valley national park at sunset, california

Roman Slavik

Travel time from Vegas: two and a half hours

Obviously, this park needs no introduction. The 278-mile-long Grand Canyon, located east of Vegas, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World—and a true American mainstay. Coming from Vegas, the west rim is the most accessible part of the park, though of course the entire canyon is powerful to witness if you’ve got the time. Also easily accessible: the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped bridge with a glass bottom that’s located directly above the canyon floor (aka looking down while you stand on it is a little bit scary but a lot bit worth it).

colorful sunset overlooking the colorado river deep in the grand canyon

Dean Fikar – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: three hours

Located northeast from Las Vegas on I-15, Utah’s first national park is a crowd favorite for good reason: The nature is truly insane. With jaw-dropping views of colorful sandstone cliffs, not to mention tons of options for epic backcountry adventures, Zion will 100% make you fall in love with the West. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, one of the most famous hikes, known as “The Narrows,” heads up Zion Canyon, and even requires tromping through the Virgin River. Fun fact: At one point on the hike, the canyon walls are more than 1,000 feet tall!

slot canyon

pick-uppath – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: three hours

Joshua Tree is undeniably Instagrammable (do you see those Dr. Seuss-like trees?!), but this southeastern California park is even more surreal IRL. The scenery is so otherworldly, it seriously feels like you’re walking on Mars. Plus, the skies are some of the darkest in the U.S., which is a great antidote to the bright lights and big city vibe that is Vegas. Be sure to check out all of the crazy rock formations (one’s in the shape of a skull!), and the Cholla Cactus Garden at sunrise or sunset (the magic hour light on the cacti is unreal).

joshua tree

Westend61 – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: four hours

Even if you are not a “nature person,” there’s no way you won’t be blown away by the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos are tall, thin rock formations that are shaped by the wind, and kinda look like giant people…if people were made of stone slabs. Though hoodoos are found in many areas, there are more of them in Bryce than any other place on Earth. Another perk: The park is small enough to see in a day.

summer sunrise in the bryce canyon national park, utah

(c) Swapan Jha – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: four and a half hours

Google image this eastern Nevada park, and the photos will speak for themselves: There are alpine lakes and limestone caverns and Nevada’s only glacier, oh my! Great Basin is also home to the second-highest point in the Silver State, the 13,063-foot-tall Wheeler Peak, not to mention the 5,000-year-old Bristlecone pines that are thought to be the oldest living trees on the planet. Casual.

great basin

James Ronan / EyeEm – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: five and a half hours

You don’t have to go to Colorado to see all of the red rocks. This expansive park in south central Utah, northeast of Las Vegas, gets the job done, too—and done well. Not only are the views truly incredible (lots of red rocks and blue skies for days), it’s also known for its tremendous boulders, including one that looks like the U.S. Capitol dome (hence the name of the park).

But Capitol Reef is perhaps most famous for its 100-mile Waterpocket Fold, which is a literal buckle in the Earth’s crust that has created lots of deep, narrow canyons through the park. While the terrain makes it difficult to cross the park from the east side to the west side (there’s only one paved road that crosses over), the one main highway that runs parallel to the fold provides access to all sorts of trailheads and crazy-scenic views.

rock formations at capitol reef national park

Jill Buschlen – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: five and a half hours

When you think of Yosemite, you probably picture its famous waterfalls, or all of the mountain peaks, or the fresh air, or, yeah…all of the people. As one of California’s most well-known national parks (if not the most well-known), Yosemite is often teeming with people, especially in the popular areas such as El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and the trail to Half Dome. Pro tip: For a different, less-crowded experience, check out the Hetch Hetchy Valley on the west side of the park, which is just as beautiful as Yosemite Valley—and way quieter.

yosemite valley at sunset, california, usa

zorazhuang – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: five and a half hours

Though the name of this park makes it sound rather scary, the ~petrified~ part comes from its gorgeous and very much not-scary forests of petrified wood (aka fossils). When you go, be sure to check out both the fossils and the colorful hills of the Painted Desert, which was named for the red, yellow, and lavender colors that mark the sandstone hills. All told, the geologic features in the park represent more than 200 million years of history on display—a great juxtaposition to the relatively new casino resorts that line the Strip.

the tepees at petrified forest national park in arizona

LarryKnupp – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: six and a half hours

Sequoia is all about—you guessed it—big trees. Giant sequoias are thought to be the largest living organism on Earth! The highlight of this park just may be the General Sherman Tree, which is 275 feet tall (and still growing today). Another highlight: Moro Rock, which offers spectacular views of the Great Western Divide of the High Sierra.

tourist walking in the redwood national park, california, usa

Carmen Martínez Torrón – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: seven hours

As Sequoia National Park’s sister park, Kings Canyon (which is adjacent to Sequoia) is also all about big trees—but it’s still an entirely separate and lesser-known park. That makes it another worthwhile destination from Las Vegas, especially if you want to go somewhere a bit more off-the-beaten-path. The star of the show here is the General Grant Tree, the second-largest sequoia in the world. Other big trees, like redwoods and cedars, are also all over the park. This probably goes without saying, but…don’t forget to look up.

a woman looks out over the aqua blue colored marion lake in kings canyon national park, california

thinair28 – Getty Images

Travel time from Vegas: 7 hours

Chances are, you’ve seen this ~very photogenic~ park northeast of Las Vegas on your IG feed. As the name suggests, it has thousands of natural stone arches, all eroded from stone over time—and standing under one of them is a popular photo-op. In fact, most rock features are a short hike from the main road through the park, so you won’t have to go far to get your shot. FYI, the most iconic arch of them all is Delicate Arch, which even appears on Utah license plates.

delicate arch, arches national park, ut

Mark Brodkin Photography – Getty Images

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