Everywhere you look, when you journey from Las Vegas to Badlands National Park, there is rock. Whether in the desert surrounding Las Vegas, where rocky outcrops seem to jump from the ground, or in the Badlands with its massive spires and incredible clefts, rock is central to the journey. To enjoy these features, follow this Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip itinerary. Along the way, there are four national parks, three state parks and three major cities, each of which features rock in one way or another.
Grand Canyon National Park
When you reach Saint George, Utah, 119 miles into your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip, take a 93-mile detour south to visit Grand Canyon National Park. Known for its spectacular canyons, big sky, and the tumbling Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is a significant contributor to the rock theme of this journey. The 1,218,375-acre park draws over 6 million visitors each year with its intense rainbow colors on the rocky face, fantastic wildlife, and the clear blue river that caused it all at the bottom of the deep canyon.
Zion National Park
Though smaller than the Grand Canyon, the 124,406-acre Zion National Park contributes impressive experiences to your road trip from Las Vegas to Badlands National Park. Located 40 miles northeast of Saint George, UT, this park varies in elevation from the valley floors at 3,666 feet to its highest peaks reaching 8,726 feet. Along with traditional hiking trails that wander throughout the park, Zion beckons visitors to wade through the iconic Narrows, where the Virgin River carved a slender cleft between towering cliffs.
Rocky Mountain National Park
When you reach Laramie, Wyoming, you are 783 miles into your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip. In Laramie, detour south 136 miles to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. The 265,795-acre park exists at an extremely high elevation even by Colorado standards. Its lowest point sits at 8,864 feet with peaks rising above 14,000 feet. Over 300 miles of hiking trails twist through the park. With 12 quality ski slopes operating inside the park, many of the location’s 3.31 million yearly visitors come during the winter to enjoy the downhill slopes, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. The park proves challenging to rock climbers with several vertical cliffs.
Wind Cave National Park
In Hot Springs, South Dakota, 1,082 miles into your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park RV road trip, you will come across Wind Cave National Park. The 28,295-acre park is comprised of a series of rolling hills where one of the last herds of buffalo roam. Miles of hiking trails run along the surface, up and down the slow inclines of the hills, around bends, and into small groves of Ponderosa pine. Here, travelers view wildlife in its natural habitat with elk and deer leisurely walking amongst buffalo herds grazing on the succulent prairie grass. However, there is more to this park than what lies on the surface. In keeping with the rock theme on this Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip, step into Wind Cave, one of the world's most complex and lengthy cave systems. Even when the hot summer sun of South Dakota heats the land above, the temperature in the caves remains constantly cool. By climbing into this cave, you immerse yourself in solid rock with views of impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
Valley of Fire State Park
When you leave Las Vegas on your road trip from Las Vegas to Badlands National Park, you find a spectacular introduction to the rock theme of the journey at Valley of Fire State Park. Located only 50 miles north of Las Vegas, this park is a fiery red due to the red Aztec sandstone formed millions of years ago. In places, you can still see where the flow of the rock twists back on itself in a magnificent display of the power of nature. Hiking trails lead to numerous petroglyphs that demonstrate that you’re not the first to visit this fantastic site.
Curt Gowdy State Park
Located midway between Laramie and Cheyenne, WY, 3,395-acre Curt Gowdy State Park provides a much-needed rest on your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park RV road trip. Huddled amongst rolling hills and massive granite rock outcrops, the park features three lakes where the fishing is excellent. With over 35 miles of trails, the park invites hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to venture past the campgrounds to view the wide-open plains beyond.
Custer State Park
Located just 40 miles from Badlands National Park, Custer State Park is an ideal spot to camp during the nights while exploring the Badlands during the day. Covering 71,000 acres of the Black Hills, it is the largest state park in South Dakota. It features a series of stunning landscapes, including pristine lakes, rushing streams, and immense granite spires. Operating as a wildlife preserve, the park provides excellent views of elk, deer, antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, coyotes, wild burros, wild turkeys, and prairie dogs. Rock climbers in training often come to this park to accept the challenge of the granite spires and rocky outcrops.
Before you depart Las Vegas on your road trip to Badlands National Park, be sure to add the Bellagio Fountains to your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip itinerary. Constructed in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, these fountains are choreographed to dance with music, creating fantastic shapes in midair. The displays vary with the music playing in the background.
Natural History Museum of Utah
When you reach Salt Lake City, 420 miles into your Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip, stop long enough the visit the Natural History Museum of Utah. The museum occupies 40,000 square feet of space inside a copper-clad building. Displays include dinosaur fossils, a three-story artificial canyon and a digital globe. The views of the city from the observation deck atop the tower are spectacular.
Big Boy Steam Engine
Cheyenne, WY, is 833 miles into your road trip from Las Vegas to Badlands National Park. Within the city lies an industrial treat. The Big Boy Steam Engine is the largest steam locomotive built. It pulled up to 3,600 tons of railcars across the steep grades from Cheyenne, WY, to Ogden, UT, without a pause. This locomotive was responsible for delivering many of the products used to build the newer buildings in Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden.
Saint George, Utah
Though one of the least-known cities in Utah, Saint George provides an interesting stop for anyone taking a Las Vegas to Badlands National Park road trip. Surrounded by immense cliffs, this community is the gateway to better-known locations like the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. While you are here, take advantage of one of its dump stations. Stay a night or two at one of the campgrounds in the area.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah’s largest and most famous town, sits on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The city offers a unique blend of restaurants and shops indicative of the entrepreneurial spirit at the center of the Mormon faith. Drop by Lone Star Taqueria for some of the most innovative tacos found on this journey. While you are here, take advantage of the numerous dump stations and campgrounds that Salt Lake City offers.
Cheyenne is a storied community that grew in importance thanks to the intercontinental railroad. With its central location along the railroad, Cheyenne grew to become a significant city with stockyards, warehouses, and assay businesses contributing to the economy. Restaurants and shops, many of which still exist today, flourished in this town as travelers rode the rails east and west. While you are in the city, take the time to clean your tanks at one of the local dump stations before taking off for Mammoth Cave National Park. To stay a night or two and enjoy Cheyenne’s sights, register at one of the many campgrounds in the area.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Las Vegas to Badlands National Park, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Las Vegas or Badlands National Park.