So I am going to assume that you are in Vegas (or planning a trip soon) and looking for a little adventure while you are here. We visit Las Vegas with our kids regularly, so I know full well that Las Vegas is a vacation destination unto itself with about a million different things to keep you busy.
But I want to let you in on a little secret.
If you are in town long enough and you have the opportunity, I would strongly consider planning a road trip from Las Vegas to one of the amazing nearby National Parks or quirky towns along Route 66. And the good news is, if you flew into Vegas and want to explore the Southwest it’s really, really simple to find a rental car for a few days – Click here to reserve.
The countryside that surrounds Las Vegas is so serene and is one of the most gorgeous places you’ll ever see.
This wide-open desert region is an especially unique sight for folks coming from the East Coast or from other countries that lack deserts like these. Here is a short list of just some of the natural wonders and national parks surrounding Las Vegas: Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, and several more!
If you have a bunch of kids with you (like we do!), you can rent a minivan and take a family road trip together to get away from Vegas for a few days to experience the majestic desert and open road together.
Or if it is just you and your friends (or your significant other), why not rent a luxury sports car from a place like Miles Car Rental (I mean, you’re in Vegas, right!?). Either way what I am trying to say is that no matter your situation, you should go out and get some wheels and spend a few days away from Vegas while you’re in town.
In this article, I provide 3 road trip itineraries which all start (and end) in Las Vegas and take about 2-3 days to finish. Keep reading and we will explain why you should visit these places, where you should consider staying, and provide a list of fun activities to do on your Las Vegas road trip!
Here are the 3 road trip itineraries in this article. You can click a title to jump ahead.
HIGHLIGHTS: Drive historic Route 66, see a ghost town with wild Donkeys roaming the streets & a stay at a pirate-themed family-friendly resort on the Colorado River
HIGHLIGHTS: Explore the majestic sights of Zion, take awe-inspiring photos, and stay the night in one of the adorable lodge-style hotels near the entrance to Zion National Park.
HIGHLIGHTS: Drive on Route 66 to the quaint town of Williams and ride a train to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with live music entertainment and a rowdy cowboy hold-up.
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Road Trip Option #1 – Oatman & Topock
This road trip will take you south of Las Vegas into Arizona.
Day 1: Morning Drive from Las Vegas to Oatman, AZ
Distance: 125 miles, or about 2.25 hours
Oatman is this cute ghost town off one of the most scenic stretches of road on historic Route 66. There are wild donkeys that literally roam the streets, an old mine to walk through, and quite a few restaurants and gift shops to keep you and your family busy for several hours exploring the city of Oatman.
We visited Oatman on our Route 66 family road trip, so you can read more details about the history of the town and our experience HERE. Needless to say, this is a unique place to visit near Vegas by car that really couldn’t be more different from the glitz and glam of Las Vegas.
You should plan to eat lunch in town and spend a few hours exploring before continuing your adventure down Route 66 to the nearby area of Needles/Topock (that you’ve probably never heard of…until now!) located on the Colorado River.
Day 1: Afternoon Drive from Oatman to Topock, AZ
Distance: 30 miles, or about 40 mins
In less than an hour you will be at your destination – a wild, pirate-themed resort situated on the Colorado River just north of popular Lake Havasu in an area called Topock. Technically, Pirate Cove Resort is just across the river and on the California side (hence the address is in the city of Needles, but this is still generally considered “Topock”.
We haven’t stayed at Pirate Cove Resort ourselves, but we got a strong recommendation to stay here from a family friend with two young children. There is so much to do here that is fun for kids and adults, with everything from water sports activities (you can rent boats and jet skis) to off-roading or just lounging by the river.
Best of all, you can stretch out and rent these cute and luxurious cabins with multiple bedroom and bathrooms, washer/drying, fridge and kitchen, and a beach patio with BBQ and nice views of the river.
Day 2: Hang out in Topock!
It’s time to choose some exciting outdoor activities, or you can simply choose to relax. They have a pirate themed restaurant on-site with live music, so be sure to enjoy at least one meal their during your stay! There are more than enough options to have a remarkable day away from Vegas.
Day 3: Drive back to Vegas
Distance: 155 miles, or about 3 hours
On your scenic drive back to Las Vegas, you can stop by other interesting cities for lunch or to explore for a few hours.
Laughlin AZ is a fun town on the border of Nevada and California with resorts and casinos somewhat reminiscent of Vegas but with a small town feel.
Kingman AZ is a classic Route 66 stop with retro diners and a historic downtown district that is worth seeing to remember the good ole days of the Mother Road (i.e. Route 66).
Road Trip Option #2: Zion National Park, UT
This road trip will take you northeast of Vegas into Utah
Day 1: Morning drive from Vegas to St. George, Utah
Distance: 120 miles, or about 2 hours
On the first day of this 3-day road trip from Vegas, you will first drive a couple hours across the state line of Arizona and then Utah to reach the small town of St George. I recommend grabbing lunch in town and there are a few nice upscale options like Painted Pony Restaurant and Cliffside Restaurant, or you can grab a cheap bite at the local Cracker Barrel.
Next, you will drive less than 10 minutes to reach the Pioneer Hills Trailhead at the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area for a short afternoon hike. Enjoy the scenery of this mild hike and take some lovely photos of yourself in the great outdoors with red sand and distinct desert plants and animals. Just remember to bring some bottled water!
Day 1: Evening drive from St. George to Zion
Distance: 40 miles, or about 45 mins
After your hike at Red Cliffs, you will drive for less than an hour to reach your hotel near Zion National Park. There are several great-looking hotels and lodges near the park entrance including Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites, which we would recommend since Best Western is basically our favorite “go-to” family-friendly hotel chain for road trips (click that link to find out all the reasons why!). It also reminds me of one of our favorites, the BW hotel in Williams Arizona.
Day 2: Explore Zion National Park
Today you will spend the whole day at Zion, which is a national treasure and one of the most beautiful places you will ever see. You might want to start at Zion Canyon Visitor Center (just a mile or so from the BW or other nearby hotels) to get the lay of the land. And be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring plenty of snacks and water!
You won’t want to miss seeing the Narrows, which is a popular spot for instagram-envy photos, and don’t sleep on the Canyon overlook trail, which will lead you to a place with an epic view of Zion Canyon. It is only a 1 mile hike round trip, so most people should be able to reach this point with no problem (which also means it could be busy with tourists depending on time of year).
Day 3: Drive back to Vegas
Distance: 160 miles, or about 2.75 hours
On the way back to Vegas, you may want to stop for lunch in Mesquite, Nevada. It is a small town with a few casinos and an amazing Golf Course called Wolf Creek (if that is your sort of thing) that my husband has played several times over the years with his family.
Road Trip Option #3: Williams – Grand Canyon
This road trip will take you southeast of Vegas into Arizona
Day 1: Morning drive along Historic Route 66 to Williams, AZ
Distance: 220 miles, or about 3.5 hours
So Williams, AZ is called “the gateway to the Grand Canyon” and it really is the place you want to be to explore the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive from Vegas to Williams is quite long if you choose do it all in one shot, but it is beautiful for significant stretches of roadway. There are actually two ways you can go, depending on your patience level:
- You can take the faster, smoother route on Highway 40
- You can actually take an old section of Route 66 through Hackberry, Peach Springs, and Seligman
When you arrive to the high desert where Williams lives, you will be greeted by a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest and fresh air. We have stayed in Williams on two occasions, the first to do the Polar Express Train Ride in which we stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and the second on our Route 66 road trip in which we stayed at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams. We can highly recommend both hotels (as you can see in the video below)!
Day 2: Williams to Grand Canyon South Rim
Distance 60 miles, about 1 hour (if you choose to drive it)
Ok, today is an exciting day of sightseeing! Plan to wake up bright and early to make the train ride from Williams Station/Grand Canyon Depot into the Grand Canyon. As an alternative you can drive there, but why would you want to do that when you can take a historic train ride! This is a great family-friendly ride that involves live music entertainment and a mock robbery by friendly cowboys on the way back to Williams
The views of the South Rim are just spectacular. I think this photo speaks for itself, which is one we took on our latest trip there.
There are a few places to grab food at the South Rim before you set out on a hike or other adventure. We enjoyed views of the Canyon while eating a full service meal at the Arizona Steakhouse in the Bright Angel Lodge.
Be sure to leave a few minutes at the end of your visit (before the train picks up) to tour the historic and classy El Tovar Hotel.
Day 3: Drive back to Vegas
Distance: 220 miles, or about 3.5 hours
If you chose not to take the scenic Route 66 on the way from Vegas to Williams, now is your chance to check it out on the way back. For example, in Peach Springs you can check out the Grand Canyon Caverns, which are the largest dry caverns in the U.S. In Hackberry you can bathe in Route 66 nostalgia at the Hackberry General Store. It’s a bit rough and windy, but it is a very pretty and pleasant drive if you are not in a hurry.
That’s a Wrap!
I hope you enjoyed learning about three different 3-day road trip itineraries to take you from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas to the majestic natural wonders of the Southwestern American Desert. If you are visiting Las Vegas with kids, we have a ton of content to help you plan the perfect family trip to Vegas:
- Best kid-friendly Vegas shows
- Top family hotels in Vegas
- Best day trips from Vegas
- Ultimate guide to Vegas with kids
- Vegas with a baby tips
- List of free things to do in Vegas
- Best affordable Vegas activities with kids
- Vegas with kids FAQ
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