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On the road from Las Vegas

Few places on Earth are as entertaining as Las Vegas but it’s worth setting aside a few days in your itinerary to get outta town. Why? Well, when you have the beauty of the Mojave Desert, the spookiness of Area 51, and the wonders of the mighty Grand Canyon on your doorstep, leaving city limits becomes its own temptation.

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The Valley of Fire State Park

Head one hour northeast of Las Vegas and you’ll come upon Valley of Fire State Park: the oldest state park in Nevada, and one of the most beautiful tracts of land in this western state. Its poetic name comes from the distinctively shaped red rock formulations that dot the landscape, and its other draws include everything from 3,000-year-old Native petroglyphs to desert wildlife like tortoises, lizards, and bighorn sheep.

A road trip through the Valley of Fire State Park

Area 51

If you’re a fan of all things supernatural, then a visit to Area 51 is a must. Several hours from Las Vegas, this mysterious stretch of barren desert has long been rumoured to be the site of extraterrestrial encounters and other secretive government programmes. While you can’t enter Area 51 itself — it’s still a protected military base — you can scope out the surrounding scenery, snap some photos, and stop at the kitschy, alien-themed establishments in the vicinity.

Searching for aliens in Area 51

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon hardly needs an introduction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and visited by upwards of six million people every year, it’s one of the world’s must-see landmarks. There’s no wrong way to explore the Grand Canyon, though the charming, old-timey Grand Canyon Railway presents a wonderfully unique style of sightseeing.

Taking a ride on the Grand Canyon train

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Southern Utah

Though it’s within day-trip distance from Las Vegas, Southern Utah is worth spending several days discovering. After all, it’s home to some of the most remarkable scenery in North America, from the sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park to the wind-sculpted curves of Antelope Canyon to the vertiginous heights of Horseshoe Bend. An extra stop-off at Lake Powell, where you can paddle and kayak, is a worthy addition to your tour of the area.

Southern Utah and Lake Powell

Flagstaff, Arizona

Quirky Flagstaff, Arizona, is both a cosmopolitan college town and the entry point to a world of outdoor adventure: bordered by ski resorts and other spectacular scenery, it’s worth visiting all year round. If you’re driving down from Vegas, you’ll also have the chance to motor along stretches of the iconic Old Route 66 as you go, for that extra dose of Americana.

Las Vegas to Flagstaff, Arizona

The Mojave Desert

It’s easy to forget when you’re drinking in the Strip’s frenetic energy, but Las Vegas is actually located right in the middle of some rather spectacular Western scenery. Among the driest regions in North America, The Mojave Desert is home to sand dunes, rocky peaks, and spiky Joshua trees. Venture out to explore the one-of-a-kind scenery; if you’re short on time, it’s only a few miles to the Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area west of the city.

The best side trips from Las Vegas

Image credits: All imagery © iStock