With so much neon magic in the air, it’s easy to forget that there are actual stars in the sky above Las Vegas. But you’d be remiss if didn’t spend a night away from the casinos and beneath the canopy of desert constellations. Las Vegas offers easy access to so much wilderness, including national and state parks, national monuments, BLM land, wildlife refuges, conservation areas and recreation areas. Whether you’re looking for a few hours of sunset and night sky before heading back to the Strip or you’ve got a few days to spare, here are your best bets for stargazing near Las Vegas.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is the obvious choice for stargazing near Las Vegas, thanks to its close proximity to the city. Don’t go to the popular Scenic Loop for stargazing—it’ll be closed after dark. Instead, park your car at the Cowboy Trail Rides horseback riding stables and head out on a nearby trail. If you’re an experienced hiker, you can even climb to the top of Blue Diamond Hill (7.2 miles round trip) and enjoy starlight and spectacular city views.
Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire State Park offers swirling red sandstone cliffs by day, and solitude coupled with stargazing at night. This state park is located about an hour from Las Vegas. To enjoy the stargazing here, you’ll need to camp, as the entrance is only open to non-campers from sunrise to sunset. Campsites are first-come, first-served, so arrive early.
Late Night Trailhead
True to its name, the Late Night Trailhead on Blue Diamond Road headed towards Mountain Springs, Nevada, is a great after-dark spot. The trails here are designed for mountain biking, but you’re welcome to walk on them so long as you are courteous to those on two wheels. Park in the lot by the trailhead, stroll among the Joshua trees and look up at the stars.
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
If you don’t feel like making the trek all the way up to Mt. Charleston to see the stars (though you certainly can, and should do that when it’s not crowded), stop at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge along I-95. This 1.6 million acre area offering unobstructed sky views, plus springs, mountains and occasional bighorn sheep sightings.
Pinto Valley Wilderness
Perhaps the least-known spot on this list, the Pinto Valley Wilderness near Lake Mead offers similar sandstone formations and sweeping desert vistas to those you’d find in more popular spots like Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire – minus the crowds. The landscape is pretty rugged out here. Simply park along the road, walk out into the desert and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Death Valley National Park
If you’re up for the two-hour drive, Death Valley National Park is pretty much impossible to beat when it comes to stargazing near Las Vegas. Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park – meaning that it’s really, really dark there. It’s honestly hard to find a bad place to look at the stars in Death Valley, from the Mesquite Sand Dunes to the Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest. For optimal night sky viewing, head up into the Panamint Mountains and camp overnight or plan your trip around the annual Death Valley Dark Sky Festival.