The Best Weekend Getaways from Las Vegas This Fall and Winter
Pack your bags and gas up the car for road trips that include ski resorts, ghost towns, serene deserts, and more, all within five hours of Las Vegas.
As the year winds down, Las Vegas continues to be a pretty busy place. However, if the bright lights of Sin City aren't enough to hold your attention, it may be time to pack your bags, fill up on gas (or charge your battery), and take a trip out of town. Vegas is all by itself in the middle of the desert, but it's within easy driving distance to a variety of compelling destinations. From ski slopes to offbeat desert towns and everything else in between, there's a vacation spot calling your name as we head into the winter season.
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours
This town is all about the Brian Head Ski Resort, one of the most popular destinations for Las Vegans to cross into Utah and hit the slopes. The season gets underway November 18, with more than 70 runs on the connected Giant Steps and Navajo mountains. The base elevation of 9,200 feet is the highest in the state. However, the atmosphere is very casual, laid-back, and beginner-friendly. Beyond skiing and snowboarding, Brian Head is also a fun spot for snowshoeing, tubing, and snapping photos of beautiful red rock vistas. Book a snowmobile tour and explore the snow-filled backcountry. When it's time to grab a meal, hang out with the regulars and order Thai food at Sook Jai or pizza at Pizanos.
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
The heat and bugs in Tecopa are unbearable during the summer, but once the temperatures drop in fall and winter, it's a perfect time to check out the quirkiness of this tiny California destination. Tecopa isn't quite a ghost town, but you'll see a few abandoned buildings, a rundown jail, and other signs of its history as an old supply route and railroad community. Las Vegans come here to disconnect. There's no cellphone service and hardly any landlines. It has the most breweries per capita in the United States—as long as you understand it's two breweries for about 60 people. Tecopa Brewing Company has killer BBQ. Death Valley Brewing is next to Steaks and Beer, which serves charred ribeyes and local organic sides (with no website or social media, so call 702-334-3431 to book a reservation). Yet the most popular attractions in Tecopa are the natural hot springs at two resorts (Delight's and Tecopa Hot Springs) and the China Ranch Date Farm, home to a small museum and bakery.
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours, 40 minutes
Cottonwood is a small town in the heart of Arizona's Verde Valley between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The quiet region doesn't forget its Old West roots as a mining community and boasts picturesque mountain scenery. It's also in the heart of Arizona's booming wine country. Visit historic downtown Cottonwood and check out at least eight tastings rooms within steps of each other. Neighboring Jerome is home to the Grand Hotel, formerly a creepy hospital and currently one of the most haunted hotels in America. Grab lunch and enjoy the views at the Asylum Restaurant before taking a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad, a three-hour train ride that follows the river and turns around at Perkinsville ghost town. Spend some time exploring the great outdoors, especially the Tuzigoot National Monument, where Pueblo ruins are preserved and protected.
Distance from Vegas: 2 hours
As the lowest point of elevation in North America, Death Valley gets unbearably hot in the summer, famously setting record temperatures. Once the weather cools down in the fall and winter, the national park is actually quite beautiful. Book a night at the Inn at Death Valley, a Mediterranean-inspired oasis with gorgeous views, or the more casual Ranch at Death Valley, which has lush outdoor landscaping and the lowest-elevation golf course in the world. Either way, enjoy a steak dinner at the Last Kind Words Saloon, which is full of rugged Old West charm. It's a great time of year to hike the surrounding landscapes, from the peaks of Zabriskie Point to the depths of Badwater Basin, an oddly picturesque salt flat. The northwest entrance of Death Valley National Park via Beatty remains closed after flooding damaged the road over summer, so make sure to enter by passing through Death Valley Junction when traveling from Vegas.
Distance from Vegas: 3 hours, 30 minutes
If you want a cool way to visit the Grand Canyon, take an old-school train ride from Williams, Arizona, which provides direct passage to the scenic South Rim inside the national park. The small town values its reputation as a gateway to America's largest hole in the ground, but Williams is a pretty cool place to visit all by itself. Spend a few days here and you'll see a proud history that combines a rough-and-tumble Wild West past with a legacy as the last operational stretch of Route 66, which helped usher in a new era of road tripping. Roam the streets of downtown, where old brothels and saloons have been converted to bars and restaurants. Ride down a mountain on a self-controlled alpine roller coaster at the Canyon Coaster Adventure Park, get into the cowboy spirit at Wild West Junction, and check out vintage gas pumps and other antiques inside Pete's Gas Station Museum. Just outside of town, animal lovers can feed dozens of deer, meet a zonkey, and hang out with a camel at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm, or drive through the Bearizona wildlife park, which also includes a walkable zoo.
Distance from Vegas: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Want to get away from the crowds? Caliente, the only incorporated city in Lincoln County north of Las Vegas, is a quiet community with a small-town feel and an unexpected variety of outdoor activities. Early growth was based on its role as a railway stop between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles—a legacy recognized with a mission-style depot, still standing as a photogenic piece of history, with the Box Car Museum just steps away. Spend some time here and further explore the great outdoors with mountain biking at Barnes Canyon and hiking at Kershaw-Ryan State Park. Caliente is also a great home base to visit the towering rock formations and slot canyons of Cathedral Gorge State Park, about 15 miles away. Otherwise, hang out for a while and mingle with the locals at Side Track, one of our favorite restaurants on the outskirts of Vegas, and its sister weekend cocktail lounge, Side Car. The Caliente Hot Springs Resort is closed for renovations until 2023, so ask for the log cabin at the nearby Pine Tree Inn & Bakery bed-and-breakfast in Panaca.
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Beatty is an old mining and railroad town on the outskirts of Death Valley. It's also close to the ghost town ruins of Rhyolite, the weirdness of the Goldwell Open Air Museum, and the Tom Kelly bottle house, made from more than 50,000 glass bottles. All three places are within steps of each other west of the town. For another weird photo spot, travel three miles north of the town center on U.S. 95. You'll see wreckage from an airplane crash by a roadside sign for what used to be the Angel's Ladies brothel. Back in the heart of Beatty, you'll want to try the chili and beer at the Happy Burro, an old saloon with vintage spirit, quirky decor, and a boardwalk-style patio. Hang around long enough and you might see burros roaming the streets. With a travel time of less than two hours, Beatty is a great day trip from Vegas, but if you want to spend the night, check out the renovated rooms at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino.
Mt. Charleston, Nevada
Distance from Vegas: One hour
Here's a road trip that's quick and easy, but still feels a world away from Las Vegas. Mt. Charleston, the highest peak in the Spring Mountains, is just northwest of Sin City. The elevation is a welcome change of pace from the desert valley floor any time of year, but the colder months are when business picks up. The Lee Canyon ski and snowboard resort is in peak season with chair lifts providing gorgeous views of the surrounding Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The loss of Mt. Charleston Lodge in a 2021 fire hit the community hard, but the owners have been staging sporadic Pine Dining pop-up culinary events in the location, which have proven to be a huge hit. On-site cabin rentals continue unaffected. You can also book a room at the Retreat on Charleston Peak (formerly the Resort on Mt. Charleston), which has a bar and restaurant.
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Describing Laughlin as a mini-Vegas on a river isn't entirely off base. Both towns—less than a hundred miles apart—are famous for casinos, entertainment, and bright neon lights. But Laughlin is less chaotic, with a small town feel and employees who actually do recognize regulars by name year after year. The dining and nightlife is lowkey and low pressure. Yet the character of the town is best shaped by its location along the Colorado River, which separates Nevada from Arizona. You'll want to hold off on JetSki and kayak rentals this time of year, but you can still take water taxis from one hotel to another and board guided boat tours or dinner cruises. It's a great time of year to hike nearby Grapevine Canyon, where you can explore a dried river bed and examine petroglyphs—drawings on stone walls left behind by Native American tribes hundreds of years ago.
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Mesquite, about 95 miles northeast of Las Vegas, tends to market itself as a more laid-back alternative to Sin City, but it's really a casino town for the party animals who live right across the border in Utah. A vintage vibe is felt in the tableside food presentations at Katherine's Steakhouse or the seven golf courses squeezed within a few miles of each other. Interact with exotic animals at Camel Safari or go off-roading with an ATV. Yet half the fun of a road trip to Mesquite is getting there. Detour off Interstate 15 and take one of America's most scenic drives through the Valley of Fire State Park before reconnecting later. The bright, dramatic sandstone formations almost appear to be on fire when the sun hits them just right—hence the name. The red sand at Rainbow Vista creates a life-on-Mars feel, so it's no wonder parts of Total Recall were filmed there back in the ‘80s. Now that summer is over, the cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking the park.
Distance from Vegas: Seven hours
Lake Tahoe, often connected to Reno activities, is the largest alpine lake in North America and worthy of a road trip on its own. The clear blue waters, sandy beaches, and miles of pine trees make it a fantastic year-round destination, but it’s a haven for ski fanatics in the winter. South Lake Tahoe is tourist-oriented with ample hotels (including the Heavenly Ski Resort), shopping, and sunset cruises. The Nevada side (officially the town of Stateline) has four casino resorts, but the Hard Rock is easily the most contemporary and appealing. By comparison, North Lake Tahoe is more residential, especially Incline Village, where exclusivity is part of the charm. Vacay with a room at the Hyatt Regency, which feels like the world's largest log cabin. Roast marshmallows at fire pits near the pool, enjoy dinner at the Lone Eagle Grill, and hit the slopes at nearby Diamond Peak or Mt. Rose. The views overlooking the lake are spectacular.
St. George, Utah
Distance from Vegas: Two hours
St. George is the first place Las Vegans run into after cutting through the northwest corner of Arizona and crossing the border into Utah. The city combines a charming downtown area with a thriving art scene, and proximity to four state parks—including the bright red terrain of Sand Hollow, a popular spot for ATV exploration in the winter. St. George is also known as a great base city for day-tripping to Zion National Park, one of the most colorful examples of rock formations, sweeping cliffs, and waterfalls in Utah. It's chilly in the winter and sees occasional snow, but the season is a great opportunity to check out the most popular spots with far smaller crowds. Just make sure to apply for passes at least a day in advance. Balance out all that outdoorsy stuff by visiting independent restaurants, art galleries, and shopping in downtown St. George. The Painted Pony and Wood.Ash.Rye. are the top spots for dinner and drinks.