Sunrise at the buttes of Monument Valley on the Arizona - Utah border.
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21 Best Road Trips From Las Vegas

By Sasha Yanshin | Updated on 10 March 2020

If you live in Las Vegas or visiting Sin City and want to explore beyond the Strip, there is a huge number of road trip options available.

Whether you want to explore the desert, see giant sequoias, spend time in California's biggest cities or relax on a beach, our list of the 21 best road trips from Las Vegas will have you covered.

The following list starts with the closest to Las Vegas and moves on to longer drives further down the list so scroll down depending on how far you're prepared to go!

1. Nelson Ghost Town and Eldorado Canyon gold mine

45 minutes from Las Vegas (45 miles)

The abandoned Nelson Ghost Town with rusty old cars and derelict buildings.
Nelson Ghost Town is an amazing view of what Nevada used to be like many decades ago.
Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock.com

Just outside Las Vegas and only a 45 minute drive from the Strip is the ghost town of Nelson. To get here from Las Vegas, head southeast out of the city towards Henderson and keep on going past Boulder City along US-95 and Route 165.

The ghost town was a disused old mining town before the current owners moved in over 25 years ago. The ghost town elements were retained and a little enhanced to make it more interesting and today you can visit the ghost town to see what it's all about.

There's lots and lots of half-rusted old cars which is both really interesting and mighty frustrating if you're a big fan of cars like me. Other props include rattle snakes in a freezer and crashed airplanes. Not all of it is completely authentic...

But that doesn't really matter - you're here to walk around and take some amazing photos. Take a lot of care while walking around - rattle snakes are common so watch out and report any you see to the guides.

Tours down the gold mine take place at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. as long as there's at least 4 adults (although they may take less in the off-season). The tours will take you through the richest mine in Nevada that operated for almost 80 years and closed as World War II broke out.

Bring another layer with you - the tour can take over an hour and it can feel a little cool inside the mine.

2. A short drive to the Valley of Fire State Park

50 minutes from Las Vegas (49 miles)

The beautiful layers of Fire Wave rock in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Valley of Fire in Nevada can definitely make you think you're on a different planet.
Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock.com

The Valley of Fire is a rocky part of the Mojave desert under an hour's drive out of Las Vegas.

If you're looking for a day road trip out and want to go into the desert but don't want to make the 2+ hour drive to Death Valley, the Valley of Fire is a great option.

Follow the I-15 north from Las Vegas for half an hour and follow the turning onto the Valley of Fire Highway which will take you into the park.

The unique mix of rocks, layered colors and amazing hiking routes is the oldest State Park in Nevada, being first designated back in 1935 after opening the year before.

The park was home to ancient Ancestral Puebloan tribes and you can find petroglyphs (wall drawings) that are thousands of years old in the park.

As with other deserts near Las Vegas, temperatures in the summer get very hot. Average daily highs from June to August are over 100 °F (38 °C).

Bring lots of water if you're planning to visit in the summer but March to April and October to November are much better when the weather is mild making it much more pleasant.

3. Visit Lake Mead and see the Hoover Dam

55 minutes from Las Vegas (39 miles)

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam at sunrise.
Lake Mead is close to Las Vegas and a very underrated place to spend a day.
fellswaymedia/Shutterstock.com

For those who want to get out of Las Vegas but don't want to go far, the closest place to go is the Hoover Dam. It's in at #3 in the list because visiting the Dam and the nearby Lake Mead requires some local driving but you won't have to go too far.

The Hoover Dam is a world famous installation that helps Vegas have water and electricity supplies despite the city being located in the middle of one of the driest deserts in the world.

Built during the Great Depression, Hoover Dam was much bigger than any dam ever built before it and Lake Mead continues to be the largest water reservoir in the United States today.

Talking of Lake Mead, it's not just there to turn the turbines of the dam. You can go on a cruise around the lake, hire a boat or relax on Boulder Beach.

In the afternoon, you can take a drive along Northshore Road - it starts just outside Henderson and goes for over 50 miles towards the Valley of Fire State Park (#2 above).

It's a great drive with scenic places to stop along the way and you can combine a visit to the Valley of Fire with Lake Mead for a great (although long) day road trip out of Las Vegas.

4. A trip to the desert - Mojave National Preserve

1 hour from Las Vegas (59 miles)

Desert landscape of the Mojave National Preserve with rock formations and different kinds of cactus.
The Mojave National Preserve is a varied desert with interesting rock formations and beautiful scenery.
MightyPix/Shutterstock.com

Las Vegas sits in the middle of the Mojave desert with parts of the driest part of North America spanning corners of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

The Death Valley National Park (#5 below) and Joshua Tree National Park (#8) are the two best known places to go and explore the hot and inhospitable Mojave desert, but the less known and less popular Mojave National Preserve is much close to Las Vegas.

Although a lot of the Mojave National Preserve is rocky desert, there's a few interesting parts to explore.

The Cima Dome and the Shadow Valley next to it are home to a forest of Joshua trees. The term forest is a little generous here as the trees are quite spread out and you won't find birds singing in the branches or creatures living in the undergrowth, but this is the most dense area for Joshua trees anywhere and you'll see more here than in the Joshua Tree National Park!

The Mojave Desert Lava Tube is further west and you'll need a reasonable SUV or car capable of going offroad to navigage several miles of dirt track to get here.

The Lava Tube is a series of rooms underneath the surface of the desert that feel like caves - they were created when molten lava made its way through the ground creating the unique space.

Make sure you stop at the Castle Mountains National Monument . Again - you'll need something with 4-wheel drive and decent tires to get here, but sitting right on the edge of the preserve, this is one of the prettiest parts with a little more in terms of plants and wildlife to see.

5. Feel the heat in Death Valley National Park

1 hour 55 minutes from Las Vegas (126 miles)

The dried out Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, California.
Death Valley has some of the most extreme and stunning landscapes you will ever see.
Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock.com

If spending a few days in the hottest place on Earth and some of the least hospitable environments anywhere on the planet sounds like fun, the Death Valley National Park is less than 2 hours away from Las Vegas.

If you thought Vegas was too hot in the summer, the average (yes... average) daily high is above 120 °F (49 °C) from June through to August. I'd pick one of the other 20 entries on this list if you're looking for a road trip in the middle of the summer.

If you come from November to March, the weather is much more mild and you'll have a much better trip exploring the varying landscapes that Death Valley has to offer. There are dried out salt flats from where lakes and seas once covered the valley, there's rocky sections with mountains and even sand dunes.

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the United States excluding Alaska and is a designated International Dark Sky Park. This means there's no artificial light anywhere within the park at night and if you're camping on a clear day, the view of the stars above is phenomenal.

6. Go fishing on Lake Havasu, Arizona

2 hours 30 minutes from Las Vegas (153 miles)

Hot air balloons over the London Bridge at Lake Havasu on the Arizona - California border.
London Bridge on Lake Havasu is a seriously unexpected and very quirky sight.
Angel McNall Photography/Shutterstock.com

Lake Havasu sits on the Arizona - California border south of Las Vegas. Like many lakes in southwestern United States, the lake is an artificially created reservoir after the Colorado River flowing through the local valley was dammed by the Parker Dam in the 1930s.

Today the lake is a popular destination for 2 main reasons: the fishing and London Bridge.

Fishing is a hugely popular activity on the lake - there's an abundant population of bass in the lake and big fishing competitions happen frequently where people from across the United States come to compete.

London Bridge is a very unusual sight sitting across a canal in Lake Havasu City and connecting it to Thompson Bay. The name gives away where the bridge came from - in 1968 the local government won an auction for the sale of the original London Bridge that was being replaced in central London.

After a $2.5m winning bid for the bridge, each brick was meticulously taken apart and labelled so that the whole bridge could be shipped and reconstructed in Arizona.

It certainly looks very quirky and majorly out of place (in a weird good way) and well worth the visit to Lake Havasu!

7. Be at one with nature in Zion National Park, Utah

2 hours 40 minutes from Las Vegas (160 miles)

Virgin River flowing through a beautiful canyon in the Zion National Park, Utah.
Zion National Park has some of the most picturesque valleys with rivers and lots of plants.
bjul/Shutterstock.com

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah might just be one of the most scenic National Park in the entirety of the United States and it's less than 3 hours away from Las Vegas!

To get to Zion National Park, follow the I-15 north out of Las Vegas and keep on going until you cross the border into Utah. From here, State Route 9 will take you right into the heart of the park.

The main part of the park centers around Zion Canyon. Although it sits in-between deserts, the canyon is surprisingly green with forests and hundreds of species of birds and animals.

Zion National Park has some of the best trails you're likely to find anywhere - there's well made overlooks, paths carved through the rock and hikes for all abilities.

The Weeping Rock and Canyon Overlook trails are reasonably easy and take less than an hour. For the more experienced hikers, the Narrows is 16 miles long and involves hiking through a narrow canyon and wading through a cold river.

Some will hike the Narrows starting at the bottom and turn around once the going gets more tough making it a little easier and doable in a day.

8. See the amazing trees in Joshua Tree National Park

3 hours 10 minutes from Las Vegas (187 miles)

A trail through the desert with Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Joshua Tree National Park is home to the unique Joshua Tree and surreal hiking trails.
Mike Ver Sprill/Shutterstock.com

Joshua Tree National Park is just over 3 hours away from Las Vegas, about halfway on the way to San Diego.

Follow the I-15 out of Vegas and when you get to the edge of the Mojave National Preserve, cut right through it passing through Cima and Kelso to save half an hour against the "faster" interstates that go the long way around.

In fact, the Mojave is also on this list at #4, so if you've got enough time, you might as well combine these into one desert exploring road trip.

Joshua Tree National Park is named after the unique trees that grow here that look like a person standing up with arms stretched upwards. You'll definitely see plenty of them on your way around as well as rocks and lots and lots of desert.

Joshua Tree is one of the hottest deserts in the United States with daily highs during the summer months averaging 100 °F (38 °C) which can make hiking and camping tough.

If you time your visit right and come in the spring, March and April is the bloom season for desert flowers (yes - that's a thing!) and the temperature only rises to a mild 75 °F (24 °C).

9. Explore the wilderness of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

3 hours 45 minutes from Las Vegas (245 miles)

Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch at the far end of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.
The Jacob Hamblin Arch is one of the natural wonders of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
kojihirano/Shutterstock.com

The Grand Staircase-Escalante is a large wilderness that was declared a National Monument only in 1996.

The monument occupies a large swathe of southern Utah that was the last part of the United States to be mapped and remains one of the least explored parts of the country although the monument's size was reduced dramatically under President Trump in 2017 to allow for commercial exploration.

Despite this, there are some amazing places to see here. The Zebra Slot Canyon is a narrow gorge with striped rocks that you can hike through. Be careful though - the hike is very tough and requires squeezing through very narrow gaps and making your way through water going up to neck height!

The Devil's Garden is one of those postcard-type sights with large rock hoodoos eerily standing around in the middle of the desert.

Many of the sights in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can be reached from the small town of Escalante in the north. The I-15 and Utah-20 will take you to Route 12 which is the road that winds its way through the wilderness and eventually reaches Escalante.

Zebra Slot Canyon and the Devil's Garden are both a short drive south from the town and further south are the Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon and the Jacob Hamblin Arch from the picture above.

10. Bryce Canyon National Park

3 hours 50 minutes from Las Vegas (260 miles)

The unbelievable rock formations in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
The amphitheaters of Bryce Canyon need to be seen to be believed.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Bryce Canyon is a small National Park that is not a canyon, but a collection of unique rock formations that look like amphitheaters with people-shaped rock formations that look like an audience sitting watching the spectacle.

You won't need more than a day to explore the 56 square miles of the park. There are trails that lead around the perimeter of the most popular parts of the park but don't forget that amphitheaters are located 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level (2,400 to 2,700 meters) so bring an extra layer of clothing - it can feel much cooler up there than down in the desert.

Bryce Canyon is located right on the way to most of the main sights in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument so you might want to combine them into a single road trip. Zion National Park is also on the way in case you have a lot of time on your hands.

If you want to avoid the crowds and get some good photos, try to get to the park early - you might want to stay somewhere not too far and get here before sunrise for some epic views of the sun rays poking through the crowds of hoodoo rocks.

11. See the size of the Grand Canyon

4 hours 15 minutes from Las Vegas (275 miles)

View down into the Grand Canyon from Toroweap Point in the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Toroweap Point is one of many less known spots that have amazing views along the Grand Canyon.
sumikophoto/Shutterstock.com

Grand Canyon is the most popular destination for a road trip from Las Vegas. The 277-mile long canyon has some of the most spectacular scenery close to Las Vegas making it the most popular starting point for the 5 million visitors that come to the Grand Canyon every year.

It'll take you about as long to get to the North Rim as it will to the South - the South Rim is a more popular destination with better facilities and the Grand Canyon Village which is why you might want to opt for the route around the north of the canyon instead.

There are lots of places you can stop to see the Grand Canyon. Most people will go straight to the Grand Canyon Village area of the National Park, but there are other spots that have far fewer people that are just as amazing - the Toroweap and Twin Point Overlooks along the north rim are both good options.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk on the south rim is much closer to Vegas - it'll take a little over 2 hours to get there, but you'll have to share the view with a lot of other people and other than a short walk to Guano Point, there's not much else to do here and no trails.

One of the best trails along the bottom of the canyon and along the Colorado River is the Havasu Falls Trail - it'll take you past the Little Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Tigabo Supai and Mooney Falls which area all amazing. For those who are happy to venture further, Beaver Falls and Beaver Canyon further downstream are worth the hike.

If you approach the Grand Canyon via the north and have time, add a stop in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument - these beautiful rocks have distinctive layers of different shades of red and yellow and soft sweeping lines that are great for a quick break along the journey.

12. Hike through the Red rocks of Sedona

4 hours 20 minutes from Las Vegas (280 miles)

Cathedral Rock and other red rocks of the Red Rock State Park near Sedona, Arizona.
The Red Rock State Park near Sedona is home to some of the best known rock formations in the United States.
Beth Ruggiero-York/Shutterstock.com

If you haven't heard of the Red Rocks of Sedona, you most definitely have seen them on TV or in a movie.

The amazing rock formations include the towering Cathedral Rock, Devil's Bridge and Bell Rock, but there's a lot more to explore than just the big name options.

There are two state parks - the Red Rock State Park being the best known and the Slide Rock State Park to the north of Sedona. For those who want to do a drive through tour, you can drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway (Route 179) to see many of the amazing sights without getting out of your car.

But if you've come this far, you really should get out and explore. There are amazing trails that will take you right up to the rocks, over stunning red rock arches and through canyons.

The drive from Las Vegas will take you to Kingman before hopping on the I-40 to Flagstaff. You can make a stop in the city before driving south to Sedona.

With so much to explore, you can easily spend a long weekend exploring the areas around Sedona and still not cover most of it.

It may not be as hot as the Mojave desert and Death Valley in particular, but summer temperatures still reach average daily highs of 95 °F (35 °C) so bring lots of water. If you have the luxury of choice, visiting in the spring and fall will be more comfortable.

13. The Hollywood road trip: Los Angeles and Malibu

4 hours 45 minutes from Las Vegas (304 miles)

Hollywood sign on the hill above Los Angeles, California as seen from the city.
The iconic Hollywood sign looks down over the city of Los Angeles.
ruslan p/Shutterstock.com

If you want to escape the desert and head to the City of Angels, then get on the I-15 and follow it until you cross the Angeles National Forest. Traffic around L.A. can be a big factor in whether it'll take you less than 4 hours to get into the city or something closer to 6 - leave early in the morning so that you are entering Los Angeles at around 1 p.m. when the traffic shouldn't be too bad on the freeways.

Los Angeles has so much to see and do, you can spend a week or two and still feel like you've hardly seen it all! You've got to visit Hollywood and walk the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard no matter how cliche it might sound!

After measuring your hand and feet against the celebrity prints, head for the Sunset Strip and then down to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I'm not the type to shop here, but the people watching is fascinating as they carefully park their Ferrari to go bag shopping.

Don't miss out on stops in Culver City, Santa Monica and Venice Beach as you make your way around the city. If you are coming with kids or like a day out at a theme park, Universal Studios in Hollywood and Disneyland in Anaheim are both amazing.

As you venture further west past the Pacific Palisades, you'll discover Malibu Beach which stretches for miles and miles along the coast with the Santa Monica Mountains to your right.

The beach can get busy at weekends and over the summer but you can still find great spots if you drive a little further towards El Matador Beach past Point Dume.

If you drive a few minutes inland, the Santa Monica Mountains have spectacular hiking trails with views of the Pacific Ocean down below which is perfect for an aftenoon activity after spending the morning soaking up the sun.

14. Relax by the seaside in San Diego

5 hours from Las Vegas (332 miles)

Horton Plaza Park with the Balboa Theatre in the background in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, California.
San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter is a great place to stroll around, shop and eat.
randy andy/Shutterstock.com

San Diego may be a solid 5 hours' drive from Las Vegas, but there's lots of options to stop along the way and it's a great city to visit and spend a few days in so it's got to be worth you considering for your road trip from Las Vegas.

The easiest way to get to San Diego is to follow the I-15 out of Las Vegas towards Los Angeles and keep on following the I-15 until you're in San Diego 5 hours later. You can save a few minutes by cutting through the I-215 to avoid getting closer to L.A.'s notorious traffic jams.

However a few detours can add great places to stop and cut the journey up into shorter stints. If you head towards the California coast, the towns of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente are great pit stop options as is Carlsbad's Legoland.

If you go the slower but more direct route, Joshua Tree National Park (#8 above), Salton Sea and Palm Springs are all great places to visit in and around the Coachella Valley.

San Diego itself is a city that almost always has perfect weather due to its unique position on the coast and the prevailing ocean currents.

You can roam through the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter or have a fish taco in La Jolla overlooking the resident seals relaxing in the cove.

Spend some time in the huge Balboa Park - not only is it perfect for a stroll, but you'll find museums, entertainment venues and the world-famous San Diego Zoo all within its grounds.

15. Go hiking in the Yosemite National Park

5 hours 20 minutes from Las Vegas (340 miles)

Yosemite Valley and Merced River in the Yosemite National Park, California.
Yosemite Valley is one of the most stunning parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Stephen Moehle/Shutterstock.com

Yosemite is the most famous of the California National Parks and one of the best known in the country. Getting to Yosemite from Las Vegas is relatively easy - it's one of the few parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where you can drive across, although the mountain pass is closed when it gets snowy which means it's shut for the winter from some point in late October.

The majority of the visitors that come to Yosemite only go to the Yosemite Valley which only covers a tiny fraction of the whole park which stretches over 1,000 square miles.

You should still visit Yosemite Valley to see the Merced River flowing past the famous El Capitan rock but if you want to see more nature and walk the wild trails, head further out in the park.

Yosemite Valley gets busier later on in the day as some people from San Jose, the Silicon Valley and San Francisco come on day trips or for the weekend. Coming in the morning on a weekday will mean far fewer people although you'll still have to book ahead if you want to camp or hike the wilderness.

Death Valley National Park (#5 above) and Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks (#19 below) are good additional stops on the way to or back from Yosemite if you have enough time.

16. Visit the Mormon Capital in Salt Lake City, Utah

6 hours from Las Vegas (421 miles)

Salt Lake Temple on Temple Square and the Reflecting Pool in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Salt Lake Temple is the largest Mormon temple in the world.
Joe Y Jiang/Shutterstock.com

Salt Lake City is famous for its location, surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and the lake on the other. It's also known as the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the city is a fascinating visit.

The road trip from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City is over 400 miles long but these are about the easiest 400 miles you'll ever have to drive. Get on the I-15 headed north that runs exactly 1 block to the west of the Strip and stay there. 6 hours later you'll find yourself right in the middle of Salt Lake City which is where you should park up!

Although less than half of the population in Salt Lake City is Mormon, you can see the signs of the church's presence throughout the city. The Mormon Temple is the grandest and largest in the world and you can see it on Temple Square with the Reflecting Pool in front of it.

Unfortunately the temple is closed to visitors and those who are not members of the church as are most of the other significant Latter-Day Saints buildings around the city. The temple is also undergoing a major reconstruction so it's likely to not be as great a sight for a few years yet.

However you can visit the Tabernacle which puts on shows through the year and spend some time in the mountains surrounding the city. Literally minutes away from downtown you can find amazing hiking routes in the winter and big ski resorts in the winter!

17. See the saguaro cacti en route to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson

6 hours 30 minutes from Las Vegas (434 miles)

Saguaro cacti growing in the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona.
The giant cacti grow all over the Sonoran Desert.
Anton Foltin/Shutterstock.com

Sitting a few miles from the border with Arizona, a road trip from Las Vegas to the Copper State is an obvious option.

This route covers a lot of desert with stops in Phoenix/Scottsdale and Tucson - if you want to cover more of Arizona, reroute via Sedona on the way to Phoenix and visit the Red Rock and Slide Rock State Parks (See #12 above).

As you make your way over Hoover Dam (worth the slight detour), you'll begin noticing how the Mojave desert gradually changes into the Sonoran. The elevation lowers a little, the rocks and sand become a little more red in color and Joshua trees make way for the saguaros.

If you don't know what a saguaro is, check the registration plates on the Arizona cars around you - those giant cactus plants with the thick green arms that can reach over 40 feet (12 m) in height.

These cacti (or is it cactuses?) grow to be 150 years old or even older and the ones with several arms are the oldest - it takes them 50 years to just get up to waist-height!

Phoenix and Scottsdale are a large metro area with an endless number of things to do - the art scene in particular is buzzing with the Heard Museum, art galleries and various pop up exhibitions to visit.

Scottsdale has a more relaxed small town vibe to the tall skyscrapers of Phoenix and if you want to go out for dinner or drinks after, Scottsdale is where you should head.

Tucson has an interesting mix of architecture with a colonial style that looks very European. You won't forget you're in the middle of a desert though - the city's main attraction is the Saguaro National Park on the outskirts that also houses the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

18. Marvel at the natural wonders of Monument Valley

6 hours 30 minutes from Las Vegas (400 miles)

Sunrise at the buttes of Monument Valley on the Arizona - Utah border.
The buttes of Monument Valley have an otherworldly feel about them.
Lori Ellis/Shutterstock.com

Monument Valley sits on the border between Utah and Arizona and you may be surprised to know that it is not a National Park or a National Monument.

In fact, it has no real designation because it is located on the land of the Navajo Nation Reservation and can therefore not be classified as Federal or State protected land.

Although you're spoiled for choice for road trips to see amazing nature from Las Vegas, Monument Valley has to be high on your list for the totally unbelievable view that will open up.

The giant red rocks are spread through the valley as though they fell out of the sky and landed here in an ancient time and some of them measure over 1,000 ft (300 m) from the ground which is a pretty impressive height.

You can drive north or south of the Grand Canyon to get here and although the northern route is 30 miles shorter, they will both take about the same amount of time.

Seeing as you're going right past it, you really should make a few stops along the Grand Canyon (#11 above) to see the amazing sights below and maybe take a hike depending on how much time you've got. The Horseshoe Bend further along the canyon near Page is a great spot for an amazing photo.

Parts of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are also on the way if you follow the north route and a small detour from the south route will take you to the Red Rock State Park near Sedona (#12 above).

In fact, if you extend your trip and add in the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and follow different routes to and from Monument Valley, you'll see most of the amazing nature sights in the region in one epic road trip!

19. See giant sequoias in Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks

8 hours from Las Vegas (455 miles)

Giant sequoia trees growing in the Giant Forest Grove within the Sequoia National Park, California.
The largest trees in the world grow in the Giant Forest Grove in the Sequoia National Park
Andreas C. Fischer/Shutterstock.com

Kings Canyon and Sequoia are two neighboring National Parks that seamlessly merge into each other in California's Sierra Nevada.

The 8-hour drive might put you off, but the time it takes to get here depends a lot on where in the parks you want to get to. The most popular destinations are in the western parts of the parks - Route 180 runs deep into the park to Kanawyers and is only accessible from the west.

Some of the most popular hikes and General Sherman, the world's largest tree also require you to loop around Sierra Nevada.

However, if you want to walk among the giant sequoia trees and hike through the mountains without seeing the "must see" sights, you can drive along California Highway 395 and take one of the small roads that runs into the parks from there and hiking one of the trails from the east.

Kearsarge Pass and Mount Whitney Trailheads are both great options and will take you about 4 and a half hours to get to.

As you'll be passing right through the Death Valley National Park (#5 above), you may as well add it onto your itinerary. The combined road trip will take you through the world's hottest desert and one of the most incredible lush forests that are only 2 hours away from each other!

20. Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, Utah

8 hours from Las Vegas (521 miles)

Arch-shaped rock formations in the Arches National Park, Utah.
The aptly named Arches National Park has some great spots for frame within a frame photos.
anthony heflin/Shutterstock.com

The two National Parks in eastern Utah sit either side of the town of Moab. As both of these parks are incredible for hiking and exploring the wilderness, Moab gets busy during the summer months as the tourist season hits its peak. If you can delay your road trip until after Labor Day, you'll likely get better value accommodation and there'll be less people about.

Canyonlands is the larger of the two parks and you can get close to most of the sights by driving - the main road that leads into the park is the Grand View Point Road and it has plenty of places to park for the trails and overlooks including the Grand View Point right at the end of the road.

White Rim Road goes around the perimeter of the park and comes off the Grand View Point Road before you get to the visitor center - this road is open to SUVs, 4x4 vehicles and off-road bikes, but it's a little more than a dirt track and progress can be slow so allow plenty of time to drive if you're planning to go that way.

Arches is a smaller park and is closer and quicker to get to than Canyonlands which means a lot more people spend time here. Many of the amazing rock formations are an easy stroll from the nearest parking spot making it easy to see a lot of the sights without too much effort.

Each park costs $30 to enter although you can get the America the Beautiful National Parks pass for $80 which gives you unlimited access to National Parks across the country for one car including all passengers, so you really should get that and use it for a few more trips later on!

21. A long road trip across the Sierra Nevada to San Francisco

9 hours from Las Vegas (569 miles)

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge stretching away from San Francisco in California.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a worthy destination for the long drive from Las Vegas.
TierneyMJ/Shutterstock.com

San Francisco may be a long drive from Las Vegas, but if you're really wanting to go on a proper road trip and have time to hand, this might just be the ultimate destination.

When planning the route for your road trip from Las Vegas, ignore the navigator directions. The I-15 and I-5 are not the most exciting of roads and there's better things to see between Vegas and the Fog City than Barstow and Bakersfield.

Time permitting, I would first head up to Death Valley (#5 above) and spend a night or two stargazing in one of the best places in the world to see the stars without light pollution.

After that, head north along the east side of the Sierra Nevada to Mammoth Lakes and then go over the Tioga Pass along California Highway 120. This road will take you right through the heart of Yosemite (#15 above) which is well worth some of your time and a stop in the Yosemite Valley towards the end of the drive.

If you're not driving in the summer, the likelihood is that this road will be closed due to heavy snow. In this case your options are to keep on driving north towards Lake Tahoe and then taking the Carson Pass Highway (usually open throughout the winter) or the Lincoln Highway to Sacramento.

When you finally do get to San Francisco, there's so much to do you won't get close to doing it all even if you stay a week. See my guide to the best things to do in San Francisco to get inspired!

On the way back, you can come down the west side of Sierra Nevada and drive the super scenic State Route 180 that splits the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks (#19 above), see the world's largest tree and then drive down the (even more scenic) Route 198 south.

A stop in the mountains of the Mojave desert (#4 above) on the way back will complete what would be one seriously epic road trip from Las Vegas that seems to include half of all the other destinations I've mentioned for shorter routes!