To the uninitiated, the 4.5-hour drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 93 can look like nothing more than a vast expanse of open desert fringed with low, brown mountains. The straight shot of 297 miles is the best way to travel between the two cities, whether you want to get to Sin City as quickly as possible or explore the history of the Old West.

Planning is Key

Because services are limited along the way, plan to fuel your car and fill your stomach at the limited cities en route. A car with a 15-gallon tank that gets 25 mpg on average could technically make the trip on a single tank, according to the GasBuddy website, but you’d be running on fumes by the time you rolled into Vegas. Leave Phoenix with a full tank and plan to fuel up in Kingman, Arizona, 185 miles into the journey. The city is located at the junction of U.S. 93 and Interstate 40 and has extensive choices for fuel, food and other services. Bring plenty of water to drink in the hot desert climate as it could be several hours before a tow truck arrives in the rural areas should your car break down between cities, and summer temps soar to as much as 120 degrees.

Sights Along the Way

Known as the Joshua Tree Highway in Arizona, the towering succulents grow abundantly in the Mohave Desert that flanks much of the route. But that's not all there is to see.

The Old West town of Wickenburg‌, 54 miles northeast of Phoenix's downtown capitol rolls out way-out-west charm with towering Saguaro cacti, steakhouses serving up beef raised on local ranches and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum featuring American Indian and Western American art. Tour the Vulture Mine or watch for birds and wildlife at the Hassayampa River Preserve.

In Wikieup,‌ 139 miles northeast of Phoenix, take a hike to Burro Creek for a cooling summer swim. During cooler months, a natural 95-degree Kaiser Hot Springs offers hike-to relaxation and natural beauty. Burro Creek Recreation Site also makes a picturesque place for a campout with blue pools of water flanked by trees against a backdrop of saguaro-studded desert hills. Shop at the town's trading post or stop by Luchia's Restaurants and Gifts to see live peacocks and a koi pond in the garden.

Stop by Chloride‌, 23 miles north of Kingman to snap memorable vacation photos with colorful murals painted on boulders by international artist Roy Purcell. The former silver mining town has a free movie about the town's history, a museum home from the 1890s and authentic buildings that include a jail, livery, saloon, general store and much more.

Hoover Dam:‌ Where traffic once traveled across the top of Hoover Dam spanning the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam bypass bridge now offers a view of the engineering wonder as you roll by. Stop and explore the dam's history. Oversized vehicles and trailers can park on the Arizona side of the dam; passenger vehicles will find parking at the visitor center on the Nevada side of the dam. Take tours of the dam, visit Lake Mead above the dam or raft the Colorado River through the Black Canyon below.