If you are looking to shake the cobwebs off and explore the hidden gems of California and Nevada, this road trip from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas is the perfect long weekend adventure. Traveling from the shores of crystal-clear waters to the neon lights on Sin City, you will get to explore national parks and charming small towns.
The 445-mile road trip from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas will take 7 hours and 20 minutes. You can visit Hawthorne, Tonopah, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks as well as Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
This drive from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas is full of new things to discover and beauty around every corner. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top highlights, best places to stay, and the best seasons to travel.
How far is Las Vegas from Lake Tahoe, and how long will the road trip take?
|7 hours and 20 minutes
|Yosemite National Park Route
The Direct Route from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, passing through Hawthorne, Tonopah, and Beatty, is a journey of 445 miles that takes approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete.
Alternatively, the Yosemite National Park Route, which leads through Lee Vining, Yosemite itself, and Mammoth Lakes, spans 510 miles and requires about 9 hours of driving.
This adventure can comfortably be covered in a day, but given the stunning landscapes and attractions en route, we recommend taking 2-3 days. This way, you'll get to make the most out of this one-of-a-kind journey.
Best road trip route from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
While both routes from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas offer stunning views and unique attractions, they are quite unique. From different landscapes and experiences, to events and festivals, each route has its own charm.
The direct route provides a blend of forested and desert terrains, with national forests like El Dorado and Sierra and vast desert expanses. This route also gives you the chance to visit Walker Lake, a beautiful freshwater paradise.
As you drive through the desert, the otherworldly landscapes and breathtaking sunset skies create an unforgettable experience. And then, you'll end in fantastic Las Vegas.
In contrast, the Yosemite National Park Route features lush, forested scenery. Driving south towards Yosemite, you're treated to the sight of beautiful national forests and charming mountain communities.
Please keep in mind that this route will take you to Tioga Pass Entrance, which is closed in winter. If traveling during this time, you will need to make a detour to one of the other entrance to visit the national park. Click here to learn more about your options.
The journey also takes you through the heart of Inyo National Forest. This route's highlight is driving straight through the middle of Death Valley National Park, a dramatic and striking landscape, before reaching Las Vegas.
Both routes converge near the end, passing by Indian Springs and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area before ending in Las Vegas.
How to drive from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
Starting in Lake Tahoe, make your way east through the Nevada side of the lake. Soon, you'll merge US-395 South. Continue south until you get to NV-208. Follow the route east to US-95 and turn, heading southeast.
Past Avalon, you will be able to visit Walker Lake. After enjoying the fresh-water activities, head back en route to Hawthorne. After your visit, follow the highway and continue driving to Tonopah, keep driving southeast.
You'll pass the historic town of Indian Springs and plenty of hiking areas. Then, you'll make your way to famous Las Vegas.
Yosemite National Park Route
Starting in Lake Tahoe, make your way south on US-395. You'll pass endless natural areas perfect for hiking and exploring the wilderness. Continue southeast until you reach Mono Lake and enter Yosemite National Park using the Tioga Pass Entrance.
After your visit, use the same entrance to exit the park and head back on US-395. Driving southeast, you will soon reach Mammoth Lakes. Here, you can explore another one of California's outdoor paradises, merge back onto the highway and continue south to Lone Pine.
Drive east through Death Valley National Park, one of the driest and hottest places on the planet. Keep in mind that this national park can experience flash floods and check for road closures.
Keep driving east and merge onto US-95 South. Soon, you'll make it to fabulous Las Vegas.
Best places to stop between Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas
With so much to see and do along the way on a road trip from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, we recommend staying in one of the incredible destinations below. This way, you'll be able to break the trip up and enjoy all the wonderful things this region has to offer.
Admire the dark skies in Tonopah
Tonopah, situated about four hours into the Direct Route from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, is an ideal stopover location, marking roughly the halfway point of your journey.
This small Nevada town is famous for having one of the darkest night skies in the country. This makes it perfect for stargazing away from the glaring lights of Las Vegas.
The town's main attractions include the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, showcasing its mining history, and the nearby Mount Butler, offering scenic views and outdoor adventures.
For your stay in Tonopah, the Belvada Hotel is an exceptional choice. This elegantly renovated 1900s bank building has plenty of historical charm blended with modern luxury.
The hotel's interior, from its communal spaces to its spacious rooms, is beautifully decorated, creating a luxurious ambiance.
You can enjoy specialty coffees, pastries, and breakfast burritos at the on-site coffee shop, perfect for starting a day of exploration. The hotel's central location in Tonopah makes it an ideal base for visiting local attractions.
Just a 2-minute drive from the Belvada Hotel is the Central Nevada Museum, where you can learn more about the region's history and culture.
A scenic stop at Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes, located approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes into the Yosemite National Park Route, is an excellent choice for an overnight stop. This scenic town, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is the perfect place to rest after the exhilarating experiences in Yosemite National Park.
Known for its breathtaking hiking trails and natural hot springs, Mammoth Lakes is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, with relaxation and adventure in equal measure.
Key attractions in the area include Mammoth Mountain, ideal for hiking and skiing, and the unique geological formations at Devils Postpile National Monument.
A quirky highlight is the Mammoth Brewing Company, the highest-elevation brewery on the West Coast, located over 8,000 feet above sea level.
For your stay in Mammoth Lakes, the historic Tamarack Lodge offers an authentic mountain lodge experience. Established in 1924 and situated on the edge of Twin Lakes, it's a beautiful and historic property. The lodge's restaurant, located by the lake, is a perfect spot for a romantic dinner with stunning views.
The Tamarack Lodge also offers a range of outdoor activities, including mountain bike lessons, guided hikes, and fly fishing classes. Adding to the charm, each cabin features its own fireplace, ensuring a cozy and comfortable stay.
Near the Tamarack Lodge, you can visit Hole in the Wall, just a 4-minute drive or a 12-minute walk away. Another nearby attraction is The White Picket Fence at Old Mammoth, a 6-minute drive away. Do note that Old Mammoth Road is closed in winters, so plan your visit accordingly.
Where to stay when you reach Las Vegas
Las Vegas, famously known as Sin City, is a dazzling playground for adults, with glittering casinos, world-class shopping, flavorful cuisine, and an array of diverse attractions. When in Vegas, a visit to the iconic Las Vegas Strip is a must, home to some of the most famous hotels and casinos in the world.
Don't miss the spectacular Bellagio Fountain show, a dazzling combination of water, music, and light. A quirky fact about Las Vegas is that the Strip is the brightest place on Earth when viewed from space.
For your stay, The Venetian Resort offers an experience so rich in entertainment and luxury, you might find it hard to leave for other Vegas adventures. This world-class 5-star resort features a massive 1.2-acre pool deck with 10 outdoor pools, providing a variety of aquatic relaxation options.
Food enthusiasts will be in heaven with over 40 international restaurants to explore, offering an unbeatable culinary journey during your stay. Additionally, The Venetian houses the Madame Tussauds Las Vegas Wax Museum on-site.
The Venetian's location on the Strip puts you at the heart of all the action, ensuring that the best of Las Vegas is at your fingertips.
Things to see on a road trip from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
This wonderful journey is jam-packed with things to do and see. To help you plan your perfect road trip, we've included our top destinations and highlights below.
- Walker River State Recreation Area - This area offers a serene natural setting for outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing, along the scenic Walker River in Nevada.
- Mount Patterson - As the highest peak in the Sweetwater Mountains, Mount Patterson provides breathtaking views and is a popular destination for off-road driving and hiking.
- Bodie State Historic Park - This well-preserved ghost town offers a unique glimpse into California's gold rush era, with numerous buildings and artifacts that have stood still in time.
- Hawthorne Ordnance Museum - This museum showcases Hawthorne's military history, particularly its role in ammunition storage, with a collection of military artifacts and information.
- Crowley Lake - Known for its stunning landscapes and excellent trout fishing, Crowley Lake is a favorite spot for anglers and nature lovers alike.
- White Mountain Peak - Offering some of the most striking views in the Eastern Sierras, White Mountain Peak is the third highest peak in California and is accessible by a challenging hiking trail.
- Tonopah Historic Mining Park - This park preserves the mining history of Tonopah with its original mining equipment, buildings, and underground tunnels, providing an authentic mining experience.
- Central Nevada Museum - Located in Tonopah, this museum covers the history and culture of Central Nevada, with exhibits on mining, ranching, and local Native American history.
- International Car Forest of the Last Church - An eccentric art installation in Goldfield, Nevada, this site features over 40 automobiles artistically arranged and painted, creating a unique and surreal landscape.
- Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge - This refuge is a haven for diverse wildlife and is home to several endangered species, featuring vibrant natural springs in a desert setting.
- Mt. Charleston - Located near Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston offers a cooler, forested escape from the desert, with hiking trails, skiing opportunities, and panoramic views.
Yosemite National Park Route
- Mono Lake Vista Point - This viewpoint offers stunning panoramic views of Mono Lake, famous for its unique limestone formations called tufa towers.
- Gibbs Canyon - A hidden gem in the Eastern Sierra, Gibbs Canyon is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking and wildlife viewing.
- Lee Vining Creek - This creek, flowing near Lee Vining, provides a peaceful natural setting, popular for fishing, birdwatching, and enjoying the tranquility of the Eastern Sierra.
- Yosemite National Park - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yosemite is famed for its towering granite cliffs, waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems, attracting millions of visitors annually.
- June Lake - A picturesque mountain town, June Lake is surrounded by stunning alpine scenery and offers year-round outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and fishing.
- Mammoth Lakes - Known for its ski resort and breathtaking natural beauty, Mammoth Lakes is a popular destination for outdoor adventures, including hiking, mountain biking, and hot springs.
- Rainbow Falls - Located in the Mammoth Lakes area, Rainbow Falls is a stunning 101-foot waterfall known for the rainbows that form in its mist on sunny days.
- Manzanar National Historic Site - This site preserves the history of Japanese American internment during World War II, offering a powerful and educational experience through its museum and reconstructed camp.
- Alabama Hills - Famous for its unique rock formations and as a filming location for many movies, the Alabama Hills offer a surreal landscape for hiking and photography.
- Museum of Western Film History - This museum in Lone Pine, California, celebrates the area's rich history as a filming location for Western movies, with exhibits on famous films and actors.
- Panamint Springs - A small oasis in Death Valley, Panamint Springs offers accommodations and a respite from the desert, serving as a gateway to Death Valley National Park.
- Keane Wonder Mine - A historic gold mine in Death Valley National Park, the Keane Wonder Mine offers a look into the area's mining past, with trails leading to old mine workings and mills.
- Death Valley National Park - Known as one of the hottest places on earth, Death Valley features dramatic landscapes, from salt flats and sand dunes to mountains and valleys.
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - These iconic sand dunes in Death Valley National Park offer a picturesque desert landscape, ideal for photography and exploring the shifting sands.
- Indian Springs - A small town near Las Vegas, Indian Springs is known for its quiet, natural environment, offering a peaceful stop before reaching the city.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Just outside Las Vegas, this area is renowned for its stunning red rock formations, hiking trails, and scenic drives, offering a natural counterpoint to the city.
Best time to go on a road trip from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a destination full of non-stop excitement year-round. However, your experience will differ based on the chosen route and the season you choose to drive.
On the Direct Route, winter around Lake Tahoe may be snowy and icy, especially on the higher elevations. The Yosemite National Park Route also takes you through some snow-packed areas that may experience delays and road closures in the winter.
Winter, from November to March, transforms the Lake Tahoe to Yosemite region into a snowy wonderland, offering a serene but potentially challenging drive. The temperatures in this area will be around 30 degrees Fahrenheit during this season.
However, if you choose to travel in winter, you will have plenty of amazing events to check out, with the Lake Tahoe Reggae Fest in February and the famous New Year celebrations in Las Vegas.
Spring is the perfect time to travel along both routes. The journey through Death Valley National Park is particularly delightful with the possibility of seeing the spectacular spring desert bloom.
Summer is hot, especially around Death Valley National Park. You'll experience scorching temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the way, summer events include the Tonopah Rock and Bottle Show in July on the Direct Route. The Yosemite Route hosts the Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee in July and the California Dark Sky Festival in September.
Fall is another wonderful season to travel along both routes. You can expect temperatures to average 65-70 degrees in Las Vegas during this season.
Signature events in Las Vegas in late summer and fall include the Life is Beautiful Festival in September and the World Series of Poker in November.