The Ultimate Nevada Road Trip Itinerary

November 14, 2020

This travel guide will take you on a journey across the best places to visit in Nevada, United States. The 1200-mile road trip will take you to Las Vegas, The Great Basin National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Yosemite National Park. You’ll also see some of the area’s less-popular, yet equally beautiful State Parks. Check out our ultimate Nevada road trip itinerary!

Before you go: What are the must-see National Parks in the west US?

The West of the US is home to nearly 30 different National Parks. You can find the most parks around California, Utah, and Nevada. Some of the best National Parks on the West side of the US include:

Are you a fan of National Parks?

National Park lovers should definitely take a look at this blog post, where we list out the 7 best National Park road trips you need to add to your bucket list next year!

Road Trip Extension to Utah’s National & State Parks

Why not extend your road trip to see even more spectacular National and State Parks? Utah is home to some otherworldly parks, such as Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. Click here to check out our road trip itinerary around Utah’s best national parks and extend your road trip further!

Road Trip Extension to Arizona and The Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park is an absolute must-see for any tourist visiting this part of the US. Click here to check out our curated travel guide to The Grand Canyon National Park and extend your road trip further!

Las Vegas

scenic driving road next to lake mead recreational area, on the outskirts of Las Vegas Nevada.
Lake Mead, right outside of the city. Photo by Esudroff

Your National Park Road Trip begins in Las Vegas, dubbed the Sin City. For maximum convenience, Rentalmoose recommends picking up your rental car directly from the McCarran International Airport. Find the perfect rental car for this road trip via our online platform.

What is Las Vegas known for?

The unarguable highlight of Las Vegas is the city’s countless casinos, extravagant resorts, and vivid entertainment venues. If you’re looking for the best nightlife in Vegas, take a look at this travel guide. As this road trip itinerary is made especially for nature lovers, we’ll skip out on the city’s craze and instead focus on the spectacular natural beauty around Las Vegas.

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

The Tule Springs Fossil Beds is a spectacular site just north of Las Vegas. The area, once home to mammoths, camels, and lions, is a fresh addition to the list of the American National Monuments. In fact, it was recognized as a National Monument in 2014.

As the park has only been open for a couple of years, there is no visitor center and the facilities are rather limited. You can leave your car by the side of the road and reach the monument on foot. On the other hand, admission is free of charge.

The Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is open between sunrise and sunset from Monday through Sunday, 365 days a year.

You can find more details on the park at the official website.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead is an artificial reservoir that was America’s first-ever National Recreation Area. It is only about 25 miles out of the center of Las Vegas, and is definitely worth the slight detour!

This National Park is packed with fun attractions to spend the day (and night!). You can hike around the massive slot canyons, swim in the clear waters, or get a different perspective during a boat tour of the lake. After dusk falls, the night skies are ideal for stargazing.

When in Lake Mead, you can’t skip the iconic Hoover Dam!

Consider spending the night at one of the local campgrounds. Keep in mind that there is no reservation system, spots are subject to a first-come, first-serve availability.

You can learn more about Lake Mead and its local attractions on the park’s official website.

An entrance pass to Lake Mead costs $25 per vehicle, it is valid from 7 days from the date of purchase.

Rentalmoose insider tip: be sure to see the Valley of Fire State Park, located pretty much right after the Lake Mead park. Alternatively, you can drive through both of these parks on your way back to Las Vegas from the Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is perhaps the favorite local escape from the Las Vegas craze. On top of tens of various hiking trails, Red Rock Canyon is known for its spectacular 13-mile-long Scenic Drive. Scenic driving roads are the highlight of any proper road trip, and this is no exception.

The stunning Scenic Drive is open all year from 6 AM until the late afternoon. A 1-day entry pass costs $15 per vehicle.

Learn more about the Red Rock Canyon on the park’s website.

Where to stay in Las Vegas?

Within Las Vegas itself, the majority of the extravagant resorts, casinos, and restaurants have reopened since the COVID-19 outbreak. Room rates for the city’s iconic hotels are still lower than last year, this could be the perfect time to try out a 5-star resort that would usually be out of the budget.

The Venetian

Consider booking a room at the lavish 5-star Venetian Hotel, right on the famous Las Vegas Strip. The resort is full of attractions, including a casino, an outdoor pool, restaurants, as well as spacious rooms and suites.

Flamingo Las Vegas

Staying along the world-class Las Vegas strip does not have to break the bank, and the 3-star Flamingo Hotel proves it. The renovated hotel is situated between lavish resorts, yet the rooms here are available for a fraction of the price. Some of the amenities include a variety of restaurants, an outdoor pool, and a spa.

Next on your Nevada road trip: Death Valley, 2 hours

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, wonderful rock formations and otherworldly scenery seen from an outlook at Artists Drive. Drive down the scenic drives in Death Valley on our Nevada road trip.
View from Artists Drive.

Head towards California, leaving behind the lively city of Las Vegas. After roughly 2 hours behind the wheel, you will arrive at the Death Valley National Park.

Admission to the Death Valley National Park will cost you $25 per vehicle (with unlimited re-entry). The pass is valid for 7 days from the date of purchase. Consult the park’s official website for details and local alerts.

What is there to do in Death Valley?

Badwater Basin

Once you’re inside the National Park, be sure to stop by the famous Badwater Basin. The giant salt flat spans across the horizon, it is also one of the hottest spots in all of the United States! Be sure to stay hydrated, it is not recommended to stay in the Basin for too long during the hottest months.

Artists Drive

Artists Drive is a spectacular one-way scenic driving road. The drive is around 9 miles long and takes below 30 minutes to complete. The panoramic views along the way make Artists Drive an absolute must-see when visiting Death Valley.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is the most popular lookout in the park, be sure to drop by when driving around Death Valley. For the best views and absolutely magical experience, come here during sunrise or sunset.

Ubehebe Crater

Drive up to the Ubehebe crater located in the Northern part of Death Valley National Park. Admire the views from the car park, you can even walk around the rim of the crater during the winter months. The drive up to the crater itself is an attraction on its own, as well.

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

Drive up the scenic Emigrant Canyon Road. At the end of the road, at around 5000 feet (1500 meters) above sea level, you will find a complex of 10 charcoal kilns. These are believed to be the best-preserved examples of such kilns in this part of the country. Charcoal kilns aside, the drive up the mountain will provide unbeatable views, too.

Rainbow Canyon

As you drive across Death Valley National Park, be sure to stop at the Father Crowley Overlook. Leave your car at the car park and admire a panoramic view of the Rainbow Canyon. If you’re lucky, you might see low-flying fighter jets, as the area is frequently used for military training.

Next on your Nevada road trip: Yosemite National Park, 3 hours

Yosemite National Park

green pinetrees and small river with grand boulders in the background. The scenic beauty of Yosemite Valley in California attracts thousands of tourists every day.

Leave Death Valley behind and continue North towards Yosemite. Death Valley is around 3 hours away by car from Yosemite National Park, and it is the third stop on your road trip itinerary.

Is Yosemite open?

YES! From the 1st of March onwards, reservations are no longer required to enter Yosemite National Park! Find out more about visiting Yosemite during COVID-19 right here.

Can you drive within Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park can be accessed by private vehicles, making it the perfect park to see during a road trip. However, some of the roads can remain closed during winter. Consult the park’s website for current closures.

How much does it cost to go to Yosemite?

As of 2021, the admission cost to enter Yosemite National Park is $35 per vehicle. An admission ticket is valid for 7 days from purchase, with unlimited re-entries.

What to see at Yosemite National Park?

Although there are tens, if not hundreds, of beautiful spots worth visiting in Yosemite, we have listed the major must-see attractions below. Be sure not to miss these activities during your road trip to Yosemite National Park!

Tuolumne Meadows

Once you enter Yosemite National Park, make sure to pay a visit to the Tuolumne Meadows. This peaceful Highland is home to wonderful, moderate hiking trails.

You can learn about the local history at the Parsons Memorial Lodge, right by the Pacific Crest Trail.

Keep in mind that Tuolumne Meadows is only accessible between June and October.

El Capitan

Next, drive to the heart of the Yosemite Valley. Stop by the El Capitan Meadows and photograph El Capitan, the world’s largest granite monolith.

Take a pair of binoculars and try to spot rock climbers as they try to reach the top of El Capitan. Travelers can stretch their legs and enjoy a hike along the El Capitan trail. Afterward, you can enjoy a picnic at the El Capitan Picnic Area just off Northside Drive.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls are divided into the Upper, Middle, and Lower waterfalls. The three waterfalls combined make up the highest waterfall in all of North America, spanning a whopping 2425 feet (739 meters).

If you’re a beginner hiker, be sure to stroll around the easily-accessible Lower Falls. Advanced hikers can take the advanced trailhead to reach the Upper Falls.

When visiting Yosemite Falls during Spring and early Summer, be sure to take rain gear and dress appropriately.

Half Dome

The Half Dome is perhaps the most famous landmark in Yosemite and an absolute must-see on any road trip to this National Park.

Travelers can admire the Half Dome during a hike down to Mirror Lake, the trailhead begins by the Yosemite Valley Stables by the Merced River.

If you’re an experienced hiker, you can hike along the hard Half Dome Trailhead. Note that a permit is required to access the trailhead, it is recommended only for highly-advanced hikers.

Glacier Point

Before leaving Yosemite National Park, be sure to drive up to Glacier Point. Drive down Wawona Road, leaving behind Yosemite Valley (don’t worry, you’ll pass it again on your way out of the park!). Then, turn left into Glacier Point Road. Drive until you reach the end of the road.

Glacier Point will provide you with unbeatable views of Yosemite Valley, more than 7000 feet above sea level. For the most magical experience, consider heading to the overlook during sunset.

Keep in mind that Glacier Point Road, the only way to access the overlook by car, remains closed during winter. What’s more, the drive will be closed to all traffic in 2021 and the only way to access the overlook will be via hard trailheads, such as the Four Mile Trail.

Consult the park’s official website for current closures.

Wawona Tunnel

As you return back from Glacier Point, enjoy the view as you pass the Wawona Tunnel. The scenic Wawona Tunnel opens up to panoramic views of Yosemite Valley. You can stop by the Wawona Tunnel View to enjoy the view, it’s located right by the exit of the tunnel.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

A day of exploring Yosemite National Park will surely make you hungry. Don’t miss the grand Dining Room located in the famous Ahwahnee Lodge. Movie fans might find this lodge familiar, as the monumental interior of the Ahwahnee inspired Stanley Kubrick when creating The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.

The Dining Room is open all year long for breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. Despite suspending tableside service, guests can still enjoy their delicious meals while admiring panoramic views of the Valley.

Click here for details on the Dining Room.

The Ahwahnee

Before setting off back to Nevada, consider spending the night in Yosemite National Park. You can’t go wrong with the iconic Ahwahnee. Enjoy cozy rooms with unbeatable views, as well as luxurious facilities such as a heated pool and legendary dining at the Dining Room.

Next on your Nevada road trip: Lunar Crater, 5 hours 30 minutes

Lunar Crater

Nevada is famous for empty, deserted roads. Empty two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, red rocks in the distance. Nevada, USA
Photo by Esudroff

Leave Yosemite National Park and drive back to Nevada. Although the next National Park on this road trip is the Great Basin, around 7 hours from Yosemite, there are lots of cool spots around Nevada worth dropping by along the way.

Detour to Goldfield

You can make a small detour and head south from the town of Tonopah. Continue driving for around half an hour until you reach Goldfield. This small town is home to quirky attractions, such as the International Car Forest.

Enjoy a refreshment at the Santa Fe Saloon in Goldfield, the town’s oldest continuously-run business. It has been welcoming guests since 1905!

Nevada’s Lunar Crater

The Lunar Crater was first recognized as a National Natural Landmark back in 1973. Turn right off of the US-6 and follow the dirt road that will take you around the crater.

The crater is 430 feet (130 meters) deep and makes a cool sight to see. Perhaps it’s not as impressive as the Yosemite Valley, but it can make a great addition to your National Park road trip.

For the best views, stop at the elevated overlook along the east rim of the crater.

The drive to Great Basin National Park is around 3 hours. If you’re tired, consider spending the night at Lane’s Ranch Motel by Preston. There isn’t much of a choice, as the cozy 3-star motel is essentially the only hotel in the area. Click here for directions.

Next on your Nevada road trip: Great Basin National Park, 2 hours 50 minutes

Great Basin National Park

Skygazing at the clear skies in Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Milkyway can clearly be seen as the sky remains free of light pollution
Great Basin is a great destination for skygazing, photo by Skeeze

The last major stop before heading back to the south of Nevada is the spectacular Great Basin National Park, an absolute must during your Nevada road trip. The Great Basin provides a dramatic change of scenery compared to the rest of Nevada.

The entrance to the Great Basin National Park is free of charge. However, do note that some activities within the park may require a special permit. Admission to the Lehman Caves is not free of charge, either.

What to do in Great Basin National Park?

Lehman Cave Tours

Once you drive into the Great Basin National Park, be sure to stop at the Lehman Caves. Admire impressive rock formations while strolling around two natural caves within the complex.

You can enjoy a tour of the two caves guided by the park rangers. Check the park’s website for information on ticketing and the opening hours. The cave tours are available year-round.

Keep in mind that the temperature in the cave is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Dress appropriately. Admission to the Lehman Caves is not free of charge.

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

The route to Wheeler peak is yet another Scenic Drive during this road trip to national parks. This wonderful road stretches for 12 miles and will take you up to the majority of the attractions in this national park.

Drop by Mather Overlook, a viewpoint around halfway up the road, for a great photo opportunity. Don’t forget to post your photos online using #Rentalmoose for a chance to win a free rental car for your next trip!

Note that the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is closed during Winter. Consult the park’s official website for current closures and other safety alerts.

Once you reach the end of the drive, drop your car off at the Bristlecone Parking Lot and continue exploring on foot!

Alpine Lakes Trailhead

Drop off your car at the car park and follow the Alpine Lakes Trailhead. The trail forms a 2.7 mile (4.4km) loop, passing two pristine Alpine lakes: Stella Lake and Teresa Lake. What’s more, the trail offers panoramic views of Wheeler Peak for that perfect photo from your road trip.

Bristlecone Trailhead

Before heading back to your car, hike up the Bristlecone Trail. This trailhead is famous and an absolute must-see during your visit to the Great Basin National Park.

When following the Bristlecone Trail, you will stumble upon the oldest organisms on Earth. Bristlecone pines are significant trees that can be found in this part of the park, they date back to ancient times!

Stargazer Inn

Great Basin National Park has some of the darkest skies in all of the US. Why not take advantage of the dark skies and enjoy some stargazing before continuing on your road trip?

Book your room at the Stargazer Inn, located just minutes outside of the park itself. The small hotel features quiet rooms and a seasonal restaurant. Check their website for details.

Next on your Nevada road trip: Cathedral Gorge State Park, 2 hours

Cathedral Gorge State Park

unique rock formations are what makes Cathedral Gorge State Park in nevada famous. Unique landscapes in this part of the USA
Photo by Natalie Faulk

Your final stop on this road trip before making your way back to Las Vegas is the monumental Cathedral Gorge State Park. This State Park is only around a 2-hour drive away from the Great Basin National Park.

Cathedral Gorge State Park features otherworldly slot canyons that were formed over thousands of years. It is also one of the original State Parks in Nevada.

Find information regarding current pricing and closures on the state park’s official website. As of October 2020, the admission fee to the park is $5 per vehicle.

What to do in Cathedral Gorge State Park?

Cathedral Gorge State Park Visitor center

Be sure to drop by the visitor center during your road trip to the Cathedral Gorge State Park. Inside, you can gather insight about the park and its local history before setting off to explore it yourself.

Bullionville Cemetery Trailhead

After a short peek in the Visitor Center, it’s time to explore the park! Follow the Bullionville Cemetery Trail, it will lead you to an eerie cemetery that’s been around since the early 1900s.

Miller Point

Miller Point is perhaps the best trail and attraction within this state park. If you’re only dropping by for a short visit, be sure not to miss this beautiful trailhead. You’ll get to see the absolute best parts of the park, including breathtaking slot canyons. Not to mention that an elevated overlook will open up to spectacular, panoramic views, perfect for another photo opportunity in the Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Next: Las Vegas, 2 hours 30 minutes

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for this Nevada road trip.

On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

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Post your pictures from your Nevada road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

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